Maternity Full Court Press Team Prepares Next Steps

On January 20, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation's (JHF) Maternity Full Court Press Team gathered virtually for their first meeting of 2021, to build momentum for advancing key policies related to perinatal community health workers (CHWs) and doulas, midwives, and WIC to improve maternal health. 

Nan Strauss, JD, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Every Mother Counts, introduced policy interests at the national level. These include the HHS Action Plan and US Surgeon General's Call to Action that set goals to improve maternal health outcomes by 2025. Nan noted federal priorities include extending Medicaid coverage to a full year postpartum and increasing federal matching funds, establishing accountability for respectful, quality, equitable maternity care, and improving access to high-value models of maternity care that focus on equity and involve midwifery and community-based doulas.

Wandy Hernandez-Gordon, Co-Chair of the Founding Board for the National Association of Community Health Workers, Past Chair of APHA's CHW Section; Senior Program Specialist, HealthConnect One; and Co-President and Co-Founder, Illinois CHW Association, spoke next on the CHW movement and implications for maternal and child health. Wandy shared examples of work that could inform future PA action, including HealthConnect One's grassroots perinatal CHW training programs and Illinois' recent legislation to advance CHWs as a profession.

Geri Henchy, MPH, Director of Nutrition Policy and Early Childhood Programs at the Food Research and Action Council, then spoke about the best WIC models and how they could be achieved. She identified strategies of conducting outreach and promotion, integrating WIC within primary care, and streamlining access to WIC can improve uptake. She cited programs already implementing these changes in Vermont, Washington D.C., New York, Oklahoma, Georgia, California, and Colorado.

JHF Chief Policy Officer Robert Ferguson, MPH presented 2021 strategies for the Maternity Full Court Press Team. These include the formation and facilitation of regional WIC Action Groups, the formation of a Perinatal CHW & Doula Steering Group, leveraging JHF's CHW Steering Group to gain consensus on certification standards and financing recommendations for perinatal CHWs, and an education and advocacy blitz to pass the Midwifery Moderation Bill in 2021.

The Team discussed the presentations and next steps. Comments covered how to create more flexibility and make the WIC experience more user-friendly, and the associated regulatory changes necessary to make these changes. This could look like expanding access to online shopping or virtual access, as well as having grocers store WIC items in a singular location for ease of access. Others mentioned opportunities to standardize implementation of maternal depression screening throughout WIC programs. In addition, the Team discussed defining a formal scope of practice for CHWs in Pennsylvania, increasing the number of perinatal CHWs, and further integrating CHWs into prenatal healthcare.

The Maternity Full Court Press Team will next identify stakeholders and begin building the aforementioned workgroups to advance policy around maternal health.

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