Tag Archive: maternal health

  1. Build Back Better: Improving Maternal & Infant Health Disparities 

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    President Joe Biden announced his Build Back Better Framework, a plan that introduces the most transformative investments in children and caregiving in generations. The Build Back Better Framework addresses climate change, expands affordable health care, and strengthens family economic security. December 7, 2021 marked the first-ever White House Maternal Day of Action.

    The United States of America has the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world. Black women are more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy related complications than White women and Indigenous women are more than twice as likely, regardless of their income or education to die from pregnancy related complications. Pregnant women who reside in rural communities are approximately 60 percent more likely to die before, during, or following birth than women in urban communities.  

    According to data from the Virginia Office of Health Statistics, the rate of fetal death in Virginia in 2019 was 7.6 fetal deaths per every 1,000 live births, which is the lowest it has been since 2015. From 2016-2020, there were a total of 2,723 infant deaths in Virginia. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the infant mortality rate in Virginia is 5.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Despite lower numbers of fetal deaths, Virginia continues to struggle to decrease disparities for non-White women and infants.

    March of Dimes reported that from 2016-2018, the infant mortality rate for Black infants in Virginia was 9.5 per 1,000 live births as compared to White infants at 4.8 per 1,000 births. According to our Voices’ Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia equity impact statement, in 2018, Black women died two and a half times more often than White women. Additionally, non-White and non-Black women experience higher natural fetal death rates 1.5 times higher than their counterparts according to the Virginia Division of Health Statistics.

    Build Back Better (BBB) includes a historic investment of $3 billion dollars in maternal health. $175 million in funding is included in BBB to address social determinants of maternal health ranging from housing and nutrition to environmental conditions. Additionally, the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act includes innovative payment models for non-clinical perinatal support, data collection and quality measure processes, and the investment in digital tools to improve outcomes.

    Once passed, the BBB Act’s policy investments could include:   

    Expanding Postpartum Medicaid Coverage: Currently, states are only required to provide 60 days postpartum coverage through their Medicaid programs, despite research that shows many deaths occur past the 60 days postpartum period. Build Back Better encourages states to pursue a path presented through the American Rescue Plan to provide 12 months of continuous postpartum coverage. If every state adopted the postpartum extension in BBB, the number of Americans gaining access to a full year postpartum coverage would double, extending coverage to approximately 720,000 people.

    Create a new designation of Birthing Friendly Hospital: The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services plans to propose the “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designation, which would be awarded to hospitals that participate in collaborative programs to improve maternal outcomes and patient safety practices. This designation would be reflected on the “Care Compare” website so that consumers are able to choose the hospital with the most implemented best practices.

    Diversifying Perinatal Workforce: $295 million of funding in BBB is targeted to investing in a diverse perinatal workforce and better coordinated care. The funding proposed in Build Back Better would:

    • Provide over 92,000 perinatal nursing students with loans, scholarships, and programmatic support over a ten-year period.  
    • Additionally, it would provide approximately 30,000 doulas in training with loans, scholarships, and programmatic support over a ten-year period.  
    • Provide over 42,000+ individuals training in maternal mental health or substance use treatment with loans, scholarships, and programmatic support over a ten-year-period.

    Resources for Community-Based Organizations: Allows states to establish maternal health home to better coordinate health care for individuals before, during, and after birth. This also includes training to decrease biases. Build Back Better provides $75 million for community-based organizations working to promote maternal health equity.


    Each year, thousands of women are susceptible to the maternal health crises, which has worsened across two decades, even as rates improve among peer nations. The bill would make investments in improving racial disparities in maternal health outcomes through the investments in the Black Maternal Health Momnibus. Children need healthy parents and caregivers to thrive.

    We urge the Congress to swiftly act on BBB. Take action here to contact your representative and encourage them to support BBB.



  2. 2021 General Assembly Results: Early Childhood

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    We are pleased to have so many partners around the state concerned with the well-being of young children and families. The 2021 General Assembly Session and 2020 Special Session produced positive results for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers across Virginia that will begin to touch lives very soon. Here is a reminder of some of the new initiatives coming on-line to support families with young children:

    Improved Prenatal Health Care Benefits, Particularly for Women of Color

    • 12 months of postpartum health coverage for economically disadvantaged mothers enrolled in Medicaid/FAMIS. This change will help ensure pregnant women can obtain health and mental health services longer than 60 days postpartum. This strategy was recommended to improve birth outcomes and reduce maternal death, particularly among Black moms. *Coming Fall 2021*
    • Prenatal health care coverage for economically disadvantaged mothers who are undocumented immigrants. Currently Medicaid will only cover delivery services for undocumented mothers and not preventative prenatal care. *Summer/Fall 2021*
    • A Medicaid-funded doula benefit for eligible moms to obtain doula care during pregnancy, delivery and post-partum follow-up. Doula care is a recommended strategy to improve birth outcomes and reduce maternal death among Black mothers. *July 1, 2021*
    • The General Assembly directed the state Medicaid agency to continue planning for a Medicaid-funded home visiting benefit. *In the future*

    Increased Eligibility for Cash Assistance and Affording Child Care

    • HB2206 increases income eligibility for child care assistance to $89,000 for a family of four and allows families to be eligible when looking for work. Currently, the enhanced eligibility will be in effect through July 31, 2021. The bill also eliminates the child support enforcement requirement permanently. The value of assistance depends on locality, age of child and type of provider but it is a significant cash value. For example, a family in Henrico County with an infant would receive about $1,000 per month for full-time care. Interested families must apply through their local DSS or the CommonHelp portal and must enroll at an approved subsidy vendor or encourage their child care provider to become approved. *Begins ASAP, when signed by Governor Northam*
    • Broad-based categorical eligibility for SNAP/TANF increases income limits and eliminates the “asset test” (when families have more than $2,500 in savings). The General Assembly also approved a 10% increase in TANF eligibility and cash assistance. *July 1, 2021*

    Stabilizing the Child Care Sector & Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce

    The child care sector has been disrupted by COVID-19 with many providers struggling to keep their doors open. As of March 1st, one quarter of child care providers remain closed. SB1316 from Senator Jennifer McClellan directs the state to create a pilot program using state/federal child care funds to pay for child care through grants and contracts, or enrollment, and to evaluate measures that afford the true costs of higher quality including higher wages and wraparound services.

    The final budget includes $5 million in early educator incentive grants to help increase wages by providing a $1,500 incentive for early educators in publicly funded programs.

    Enhancing the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI)

    The 2020 Special Session and 2021 GA Session approved $48 million in enhancements to the Virginia Preschool Initiative beginning July 2021 including:

    • Increasing the per pupil rate to $7,655
    • Allowing for larger class sizes
    • Incentivizing mixed-delivery partnerships with private child care
    • Flexibility to move preschool funding between school divisions
    • A pilot to enroll income eligible three-year-olds

    Addressing Young Children’s Mental Health Needs

    The General Assembly directed the Department of Education to have the “green light” to move forward with implementing plans for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation to meet the social-emotional needs of young children and to report back to the General Assembly about any additional funding needs or legislative changes.

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