Author Archive

NHSA Applauds Provisions in Health Bill To Support and Expand Community-Based Prevention Programs

The National Healthy Start Association (NHSA) applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act.  If signed into law, this legislation will dramatically increase funding available for community-based programs designed to reduce infant mortality and support disadvantaged pregnant women.

NHSA is pleased that the bill contains substantial new investments in community-based prevention programming.  The proposed Prevention and Wellness Trust will provide $15.4 billion in funding over the next five years specifically to support a range of prevention, wellness and public health activities.  The Community Prevention and Wellness Services Grants, funded at $1.6 billion annually, will be available to support existing community-based Healthy Start programs and services, such as outreach, home visitation, case management, health education, perinatal depression screening, interconceptional care and other effective approaches to ensure optimal birth outcomes. These types of community-based services will not only save lives but also save billions of dollars in health care costs.

Recognizing that our country ranks a dismal 30th in infant mortality rates among all industrialized nations, health reform offers a chance to provide additional resources to the existing network of 102 Healthy Start programs working to provide all women, regardless of race or socio-economic status, with the quality health care they deserve.


The Road to Healthcare Reform

Healthcare reform continues to slowly move through Congress.  One of the main sticking points in both the House and Senate is over the issue of a national public health insurance option — or ‘public option.’  In the Senate, one possible solution to the controversy would be to provide a national public option with a state opt-out clause.  Today’s National Journal provided the following summary of the proposed solution:

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad and Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Thomas Carper, D-Del., said leaders were interested in getting support for a national option with a state opt-out clause. The idea is a twist by Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer of New York on a Carper plan.

Schumer said reaction has been good. “Liberals live with it. Moderates live with it. It’s in the middle.”

Carper said he is working on further modifying it to include a trigger clause and a nonprofit, provisions aimed at Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Conrad.

Snowe said Thursday it would be difficult for her to imagine voting for a motion to proceed to the bill unless the public option includes a trigger that determines when it would kick in. Conrad, who authored the co-op system in the Finance Committee bill as an alternative to a public option, said Thursday states should have the choice to participate in a nonprofit.

In the House, Politico is reporting that Speaker Pelosi lacks the votes to pass a “robust public option”— the most aggressive of the three forms of a public option House Democrats have been considering as part of a national overhaul of health care.  The complete story can be found here.

The Washington Post has been closely tracking reform in their Healthcare Reform 2009 section of the website. On October 9, they published a simple flow-chart to help explain the complicated process for bills to move through Congress. It’s available online here.

–Jon Terry, President, Capitol Youth Strategies LLC

Infant Mortality Resolution Passes Senate for First Time in Four Years

The National Healthy Start Association is pleased to report that the United States Senate passed a resolution last Thursday that highlights the tragedy of infant mortality in this country and expresses support for “efforts to reduce infant deaths, low-birth weight, pre-term births and disparities in perinatal outcomes.”  The resolution, S. Res. 299, passed the Senate by unanimous consent and represents the first time in four years that the U.S. Senate has passed a resolution specifically focused on infant mortality and the importance of community-based services such as outreach, home visitation, case management, health education and interconceptional care.    Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, was the lead sponsor of the resolution and Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina,  served as cosponsor.   Alma Roberts of Baltimore Healthy Start deserves great credit for educating Senator Cardin about the impact of Healthy Start in Baltimore and the need to strengthen and expand services to disadvantaged mothers and families.  In addition, Belinda Pettiford, NHSA board member from North Carolina, has worked closely with Senator Burr and his staff over the past several years and was essential in encouraging the Senator to serve as the lead cosponsor of the resolution.

Resolutions such as S. Res. 299 are non-binding and are used by Congress to bring attention to certain issues.  In September, the U.S. House passed a similar resolution (H.Res.260) expressing support for improved prenatal care and the need to improve birth outcomes in this country.  It had been three years since the House last passed a resolution specifically focused on infant mortality.   This year marks the first time ever that both the House and Senate have passed infant mortality resolutions in the same year.

Click here to read a copy of the S.Res. 299 and here to read a copy of H.Res.260.

–Jon Terry, President, Capitol Youth Strategies LLC

Black Infant Mortality Points to Moms’ Crying Need

“If African American, Latino and Native American babies are too often in jeopardy, that means that this country is miserably failing women of color, and black women in particular, in the process of birthing healthy babies.

That’s the message that we should be sending this September, during Infant Mortality Awareness Month.”

Kimberly Seals Allers, Editorial director of Women’s eNews, wrote this fantastic piece on the racial disparities in infant mortality rates. According to the intro, “During Infant Mortality Awareness Month, Kimberly Seals Allers would like to spur a public conversation about racial health disparities and reducing the pressures on black motherhood.” The article asks tough questions about the effects of racism on maternal and child health, as well as pointing out “a woeful lack of research on the racial and ethnic differences affecting certain diseases and their treatment.”

“When we can lift the veil off the truth of our experiences as women and mothers, even when it involves uncomfortable conversations and uncomfortable realizations about our own belief systems and institutional processes, only then we can really move forward.”

Kimberly also posts on blog called MomLogic, and she featured tips from NHSA’s Toolkit for Infant Mortality Awareness Month.

Another Health Reform Bill Introduced in the Senate

With great fanfare, the Senate Finance Committee released their version of health reform earlier this week. While the exact bill language is not yet available, a 223 page summary is available here.

Of particular relevance to the Healthy Start network is the proposed creation of a new $1.5 billion funding stream specifically for evidence-based early childhood home visitation programs (see page 69 of the summary). Funding would be awarded to the states to serve communities  that “are at risk for poor maternal and child health and have few quality home visitation programs.”

The home visitation programs supported through this new program would need to show positive impact on maternal and child health, childhood injury prevention, school readiness, juvenile delinquency, family economic factors and coordination with community resources. In addition, the summary makes clear that any home visitation model that receives support would need to be evidence-based, have been in existence for at least three years, be associated with a national organization and evaluated using randomized controlled trials with evaluation results published in a peer-reviewed journal. States would be allowed to use 25% of their funding to support “promising models” that do not meet the requirements listed above.

The Senate Finance Committee plans to mark-up their version of the bill next Tuesday, September 22.  As you know, the Senate Health, Education and Labor (HELP) committee also has jurisdiction over the issue and approved their version of the bill in July. In addition, remember that the House version of health reform, released in June, also proposed an early home visitation program that would be implemented through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

NHSA will continue to follow this issue closely and provide regular updates as the bills move forward in the Senate and House.

–Jon Terry, President, Capitol Youth Strategies LLC

House Passes HR 260 Supporting efforts to reduce infant mortality in the United States.

In honor of National Infant Mortality Awareness Month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution today supporting efforts to reduce infant mortality in the United States.  The resolution, H.Res. 260, was sponsored by Congressman Stephen Cohen, Democrat of Memphis, TN, and was cosponsored by 117 other Members of the House.

The resolution includes statistics related to the infant mortality rate in the United States, highlights the importance of prenatal care and concludes by stating that the “House of Representatives supports efforts to understand racial disparities and the rate of infant mortality in order to lower the rate of infant mortality in the United States.”

Speaking in support of the resolution on the House floor, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, stated:

“I am reminded of the Healthy Start program that was reauthorized and signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 3, 2008. Healthy Start provides services tailored to the needs of high-risk pregnant women, infants, and mothers in geographically, racially, ethnically, linguistically diverse communities with exceptionally high rates of infant mortality. The goal of the program has been to reduce the factors that contribute to infant mortality, particularly among minority groups and remains a very important program to help reduce the deaths of children each year.”

A copy of the resolution can be found here.

–Jon Terry, President, Capitol Youth Strategies LLC

NHSA Executive Director on TV in NOLA

Stacey Cunningham, Executive Director of National Healthy Start Association was in New Orleans, LA at the end of August. While there, she was asked to appear on Channel 4 Morning News with Dr. Kevin Stephens, Health Director for the City of New Orleans, to discuss back to school healthy choices for parents and children. You can watch Stacey’s interview here.

Congress Approves Healthy Start Funding

Before leaving town for the summer recess, the House and Senate were both successful at passing the funding bill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The House and the Senate provide nearly identical funding for Healthy Start — $105 million from the House and $105.372 from the Senate. This represents a slight increase over last year’s level of $102 million.   In addition to providing funding for Healthy Start, both the House and Senate included report language that highlights and calls attention to different aspects of the Healthy Start program.

The Senate report states:  The Committee provides $105,372,000 for the healthy start infant mortality initiative. The fiscal year 2009 comparable level was $102,372,000 and the same as the budget request.The healthy start initiative was developed to respond to persistently high rates of infant mortality in this Nation. The initiative was expanded in fiscal year 1994 by a special projects program, which supported an additional seven urban and rural communities to implement infant mortality reduction strategies and interventions. The Children’s Health Act of 2000 fully authorized this initiative as an independent program. The Committee urges HRSA to give preference to current and former grantees with expiring or recently expired project periods.

The House report states:  The Committee provides $105,000,000 for Healthy Start, which is $2,628,000 above the fiscal year 2009 funding level and the budget request. Healthy Start provides discretionary grants to communities with high rates of infant mortality to provide ongoing sources of primary and preventive health care to mothers and their infants. Currently, 102 communities have Healthy Start grants. The increase provided in the bill will support two to three new grants to communities.The National Fetal Infant Mortality Review (NFIMR) program, an important component of many Healthy Start programs, provides evidence-based interventions crucial to improving infant health in high risk communities. The Committee believes HRSA should continue to use Healthy Start funds to support the NFIMR program and that all Healthy Start Programs should be encouraged to implement NFIMR.

A complete copy of the Senate report can be found here.  The House report is found here.

–Jon Terry, President, Capitol Youth Strategies LLC