By Amy Haddad
Director of Policy and Government Affairs
We are testing a new feature for the View from Washington column: spotlighting a Member of Congress who is a champion for maternal and child health We talked with Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), a 2018 AMCHP Legislative Champion Award winner, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care, and lead sponsor of the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act.
As a Member of Congress, you've made it a priority to address maternal and child health. Can you tell us your motivation?
As a mother with young kids and a member of Congress, I've heard from dozens and dozens of parents who have experienced health challenges with their babies — or sometimes the mother herself was at risk. I want those families who need help to get doctors, providers, and those in authority with the capability to help to get to "yes." "Yes, we'll try this treatment." "Yes, we'll take your case." "Yes, we'll advocate on your behalf." I'm finding that there's so much untapped potential in Congress — from updating laws to using our pulpit to advocate. Ensuring every family, regardless of income level, receives access to quality and affordable health care so mothers and children can have every opportunity to live healthy, meaningful lives is one of my top priorities in Congress.
How have state maternal and child health leaders been helpful, or how could they be helpful in the future to you and your staff in developing or promoting policies to improve maternal and child health? What information and perspectives are most helpful for you to learn about?
There are countless state and local partners who are working to improve the lives and health of mothers and children. An important example of this are state maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs), which provide critical information and expertise on how we can combat the rising maternal mortality rate in the U.S. In my home state of Washington, our state MMRC works to understand why individual mothers lost their lives to a pregnancy-related or pregnancy-associated condition. This kind of thorough review can inform and empower prevention efforts to save future families from suffering the loss of a mom.
As a policymaker, I'm always looking to understand what barriers exist for moms and children to get quality health care and what we can do to immediately remove those barriers. Getting answers to these types of questions is vital to us moving forward as a nation.
What is the most effective way to convince other lawmakers to prioritize resources for maternal and child health programs?
Tell stories. Statistics help, but like other people, lawmakers connect to personal stories. I like to say, "You either are a mom or you have a mom." Maternal health outcomes really touch everyone.
I believe there is a willingness on the part of many of my colleagues in Congress to work together on these issues. The first step is just raising awareness that our nation isn't where it should be when it comes to maternal and child health. I think when someone truly understands our shortfalls and how we can improve, they want to help.