There are a wide range of health issues that concern women, children and families. Investments in healthy children and families are thought to be cost effective, and many policy options are available to legislators in this arena. NCSL has placed these policy options into five categories: Maternal and Child Health, Children’s Health, Adolescent Health, Women’s Health and Reproductive Health.
Maternal and Child Health. The health of mothers and children is a key component in an overall healthy population. Both federal and state funds contribute to Maternal and Child Health (MCH)-related programs, such as the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant; Medicaid; the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP); the Healthy Start Initiative; the Emergency Medical Services for Children Program; and the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). States play an important role in administering these programs. MCH programs focus on health issues concerning women, children and families, such as access to appropriate prenatal and well-child care, infant mortality prevention, emergency medical services, injury prevention, newborn screening, and services to children with special health care needs. Other policy topics breastfeeding, immunizations, and oral health.
Children's Health. States invest in healthy children and hope, in turn, to save money by averting more costly health problems and avoiding the need for related support services down the road. Legislative policy topics in area include: the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), autism spectrum disorders, birth defects screening and treatment, early childhood development investments, childhood injury prevention, dental care, medical homes, mental health, nutrition, school health, vaccines and many more.
Adolescent Health. As young people navigate the new challenges of adolescence, they make decisions about sexual activity, engage in new and dangerous activities like driving, and develop new needs for mental health care services and substance abuse prevention and treatment. While teenagers might look like small adults, they need safe environments and caring adults to guide them through experiences they are facing for the first time. Policy topics include: adolescent pregnancy, brain development, juvenile justice, mental health, positive youth development, risky behavior, tanning restrictions for minors, tattoos & body piercing for minors, traffic safety, youth in transition (foster care).
Women's Health. Rather than viewing women's health by issue area—breast cancer, chronic disease or pregnancy—a better way to understand women's health involves looking at a woman's life comprehensively, across the lifespan. Issues through childhood include proper nutrition and physical activity, immunizations, and the prevention of conditions like osteoporosis and skin cancer. As girls move into early adulthood, awareness, prevention and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, violence, tobacco use and substance abuse become a concern for policymakers and parents alike. Policymakers also address a variety of pregnancy and reproductive health issues, which have a big impact on women's lives. Health needs change for women as they grow older to include management of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases, as well as screening for and knowledge about various cancers. Mental health services throughout a woman's lifespan greatly affect her overall health, as can access to prescription drugs, long-term care facilities, and community-based care services during the twilight years of womanhood.
Reproductive Health. Issues surrounding reproductive health are debated each year during state legislative sessions. Legislation dealing with contraception, infertility, funding for family planning, genetics, fetal issues and the juggling of the rights of interested parties on both sides are frequently debated topics in legislatures.