By Lori Tremmel Freeman, BS, MBA
Chief Executive Officer, AMCHP
As I looked over this issue of Pulse and the proposed articles, I was struck by the variety and reach of the work being done by AMCHP, our members and partners in the world of women's and infant health and prenatal/interconception care. In fact, it's not been uncommon to encounter a lot of buzz and energy around many of these initiatives in my travels to meetings with partners and discussions with members…the momentum from one spilling contagiously to another often in wonderful cross-sectored, multi-organizational ways. This is attributable to the sheer passion and persistence of our members and their work. Here are a few examples where I've learned and listened first-hand about the valuable work of these initiatives. A common thread throughout is the need to work across partners and organizations and agencies, geographic borders, and cultures, to impact systems and to change outcomes.
During a recent visit to the Pacific region for the launch of the Infant Mortality CoIIN, many of the Pacific basin island MCH leaders described their challenges and opportunities around reducing infant mortality. Although some of the problems are unique because of geography, infrastructure and other issues, the passion and desire for setting aggressive priorities around reducing infant mortality were the same. One take away from this launch is the importance of understanding the unique cultural traditions that are so deeply rooted in these small islands and territories. Showing respect for the culture while identifying how to help more babies survive and thrive should prove a rich exercise. The results of the Pacific basin CoIIN could help to inform work in the states specific to cultural, geographic and health equity areas. Other challenges emerged relating to fully understanding the importance of having solid, consistent vital records and structures that support accuracy, consistency and completion of reporting. We sometimes take for granted the value of basic data and reporting systems in understanding and finding solutions to critical public health concerns such as infant mortality. I'd be remiss if I did not also mention the continued successes of the Region IV/VI CoIINs and the courage of the Region V CoIIN in selecting to aggressively address health equity priorities for their infant mortality CoIIN work.
In other travels, a trip to the Best Babies Zone (BBZ) annual gathering of sites and partners yielded some great information on its progress. This place-based program's goal, which is a zonal approach targeting neighborhoods in highly challenged areas, is to give babies the best chance possible at life. Most impressive is the focus on addressing health inequities through an emphasis on education, economics, health and community. Early indications from of the BBZ sites are that small communities absolutely have the ability to be transformed and not only are babies' lives saved and improved, but so are the lives of the families. The project also is a lesson in ultimate patience. Building community-level systems that incorporate the needs of the neighborhoods and families in real ways that are impactful takes time, energy and a long-term commitment to outcomes. Trust and hope are not easy to establish in short spans of time. Yet, these sites and the neighborhoods they serve show promise. Moms, dads and kids are starting to take notice of the change around them and the fact that others care what happens to them.
There's high-level collaboration taking place with many public and private partners with the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality and the continuing work on the National Strategy to Reduce Infant Mortality, including improving the health status of pregnant women and infants.
And the list goes on but I'm out of space. Enjoy reading this issue as there are a multitude of projects and movements underway to improve the lives of women and infants. These efforts are making a difference to women (before, during and after pregnancy) and their babies and families every day. And, in some cases, systems are being challenged, redefined and adjusted to meet the greatest needs of our populations. Let's all make a commitment toward the continuation of this work and understanding that we cannot let up. Diligence remains key so that all moms and their babies have equal chances to live full, healthy lives.