By Tahra Johnson
New Orleans—Last month, 24 legislators and legislative staff from 23 states, along with researchers and policy experts, convened in New Orleans to kick off NCSL’s Maternal and Child Health Fellows program.
The Fellows are an exceptional group of state legislative leaders in maternal and child health policy. Among the Fellows are current or former physicians, OBGYNs, public health experts, teachers and small business owners, who are serving in state legislatures in the 2019 legislative session. Participating legislators and staff either chair a health-related committee or were nominated by state leaders to participate.
This weekend-long conference provided legislators and legislative staff the opportunity to hear from a variety of experts and their peers.
Topics covered included working with state departments of health, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), Medicaid waivers, children and maternal mental health, and infant and maternal mortality. See the full agenda and resources.
During the ACEs session, Dr. Jay Butler, former commissioner of health for the Alaska Department of Health, explained the research and science behind how early experiences in life can impact an individual’s health and wellbeing later in life and how trauma-informed care can mitigate some long-term impacts. Read NCSL’s issue brief to learn more about ACEs and policies intended to address the issues.
Legislators participated in a session examining children’s mental health and maternal mental health with experts from Mental Health America and the Boston Children’s Hospital. Learn more about children’s mental health policies in NCSL’s Legisbrief.
The session on maternal and infant mortality generated a lively discussion about the root causes of health disparities and inequities. Fellows discussed concerns about the poor numbers in the United States and how state maternal mortality review committees and hospital bundles may reduce maternal mortality rates. To learn more about how states are addressing maternal mortality, read “Maternity Care in Crisis” in NCSL's State Legislatures magazine
The Fellows also attended a joint session with the Opioid Policy Fellows. Calder Lynch, senior counselor to the CMS administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), provided state lawmakers with an overview of Medicaid waivers related to reducing and treating substance use disorders and improving maternal and child health. He also shared information on federal funding opportunities for states.
The kickoff meeting was a part of the new Maternal and Child Health Fellows program under the Supporting State Maternal and Child Health Policy Innovations Program (MCH PIP) funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau in the Health Resources and Services Administration.
The Supporting MCH PIP is a five-year cooperative agreement program that aims to support innovative state-level policy initiatives that improve access to quality health care for the maternal and child population. The MCH PIP engages four national stakeholders, who represent key state-level policymakers and maternal and child health programs, in developing these policy initiatives. Other components of this project include two webinars and a second in-person meeting later in 2019.
Tahra Johnson is a program director in NCSL's Health Program.