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Title V Technical Assistance Meeting

 View from Washington

Celebrating Moms & Improving Women's Health

By Brent Ewig, MHS
Director, Public Policy & Government Affairs, AMCHP

Every year in the run up to Mother's Day, my two daughters and I revel in planning to celebrate my wife in high style. This year included production of about seven different hand colored cards along with homemade sea shell necklaces (from the girls) and a 90 minute visit to the spa (from me). It's small compensation for enduring a year of my corny jokes, I know. But seriously, taking time to celebrate the moms – along with the grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and friends that make up an extended support network – is an important expression of the gratitude we feel all year long.

Mother's Day and the subsequent national women's health week also gives us an opportunity to take stock of how well our nation is doing to promote and protect the health of all moms and moms-to-be. This year we have both been encouraged and sobered by the increasing recognition of the maternal mortality crises in America. Of the approximately 4 million births each year, an estimated 52,000 women experience severe complications and between 500 and 600 of the complications result in death. According to the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, these rates have been increasing over the past two decades and about half are considered to be preventable.

To address these challenges, we are appreciative of the leadership Dr. Michael Lu and the HRSA Maternal and Child Health Bureau are providing to forge a Maternal Health Initiative (MHI). The MHI is "a partnership of U.S. government agencies and private organizations working together to reverse these alarming and costly trends in maternal morbidity and mortality."

Partners – including AMCHP – are coordinating our efforts, identifying gaps and collaborating to improve in the following areas:

  • Women's health before, during, and after pregnancy by facilitating the implementation of key Medicaid coverage provisions in the Affordable Care Act that are important to the reproductive health of women
  • Systems of maternity care including clinical and public health systems by strengthening state and local system's capacity and infrastructure to identify maternal risks and enable linkages to prenatal and postpartum primary care
  • Public awareness and education by increasing public awareness about the familial and societal burden of maternal morbidity and mortality in the United States
  • Research and surveillance by facilitating the translation of findings from surveillance and research into practice
  • The quality and safety of maternity care by supporting clinical guidelines and protocols for obstetric emergencies and referrals

AMCHP also is taking every opportunity on Capitol Hill and elsewhere to highlight the new performance measurement framework for the Title V MCH Services Block Grant developed as part of this program's recent transformation. Specific to women's and perinatal health, the new measures include priorities for well-woman care, low-risk cesarean deliveries and perinatal regionalization.

Finally, for your "what to watch radar" here's a reminder that later this month the Supreme Court will issue its ruling in the King v. Burwell case regarding the continuation of tax-credit subsidies for coverage purchased through exchanges established by the federal government under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A ruling for the plaintiffs could result in the elimination of coverage for approximately 7 million Americans, including many women of reproductive age. AMCHP will provide analysis as the decision unfolds so stay tuned for alerts toward the end of the month.