Reflections on 2023 Health of Women and Children Report
The new America’s Health Rankings 2023 Health of Women and Children Report by the United Health Foundation underscores the importance of the work that we do here at Any Baby Can. It spotlights several of the worrisome trends that we seek to address each day, including:
- Increases and disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality.
- Increases in frequent mental distress and depression.
- Rate of postpartum depression.
There are some positive findings, like the long-term reduction in teen births. To view the full report, visit the America’s Health Rankings website. We’re proud to partner with United Health Foundation on these important issues.
Veronda L. Durden, President & Chief Executive Officer of Any Baby Can, contributes her thoughts and commentary on the latest data, which can be found below.
To Improve Maternal and Child Health Outcomes, Holistic and Family-Based Approach Needed
At Any Baby Can, we work with clients in Central Texas to build stability in families. We help parents develop skills to navigate complex systems, advocate for themselves and reach their full potential, one family and one child at a time. We work on the ground with parents and children who face medical, educational and financial obstacles.
The Health of Women and Children Report’s findings are not a surprise to me, unfortunately. In fact, I see it as confirmation of the urgency of our work. The challenges it outlines — high maternal mortality rates, rising mental health concerns among women, and increasing health disparities among underserved populations — are what we seek to improve daily.
As a mom and grandma, I know children don’t come with instructions. Our Nurse-Family Partnership program — supported in part by a grant from the United Health Foundation — pairs each client with a clinician to walk beside them through the journey of motherhood, from pregnancy until the child is age 2, and sometimes longer. Together we help achieve a mentally and physically healthy pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. As a result of this grant, we implemented innovations in maternal health to our home visiting program. All clients are now screened to identify mental health needs, and women at risk for preeclampsia are provided with and trained on using blood pressure monitors.
The Role of Prevention
This report also reinforces the need for approaching maternal and child health with a prevention lens. We empower women with knowledge and self-confidence to understand and act on their own needs, and build awareness of risk factors for negative health outcomes.
Our client population of lower-income, first-time pregnant mothers often face higher risk for pregnancy complications, pre-term labor, low birth weight babies and maternal mortality. This includes preeclampsia, characterized by high blood pressure and can potentially lead to organ failure and maternal mortality. First-time pregnant women may not know their likelihood of developing preeclampsia or the early symptoms, so to reduce risk, we provide clients with blood pressure cuffs and training on how to monitor at home. We help mothers know their baseline metrics, advocate for their own health, and understand what to do if something changes. Through these and other programs, we seek to meet each family where they are — including physically meeting directly in their homes — and equip them with the tools they need.
We know that a child’s ability to have a healthy and happy future is based on the well-being of the whole family and those surrounding them. At Any Baby Can, we provide holistic programming to help address stressors, including case management, mental health care and support for a family’s everyday needs. If you’re focused on keeping a roof over your head and food on the table, it’s hard to be fully present for the joys and challenges of parenting.
Some Positives We’re Seeing
While the report’s findings are tragic, the positive outcomes I see among the families we serve gives me hope. They have hope for a better future, and we hold that hope with them. I’ve had countless mothers over decades tell me how our work has been valuable to them.
I’m also heartened by the high rates of healthy birth weight babies, moms initiating breastfeeding and immunization rates among our families. We are extremely proud, too, that according to our surveyed clients, 99% are more knowledgeable about child development, 99% are more prepared to plan their families’ futures, and 98% are better able to handle stress.
To improve maternal and childhood health outcomes, there is much work to be done to address barriers to care and services. My hope is that we all reflect on and use this data; that we link arms and join together to help transform lives — because healthy families raise healthy children, and that leads to healthier communities for everyone.
We match first-time moms with a nurse and preventative tools to guide them through pregnancy and parenthood.
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Our focus is on empowering families to achieve the best possible outcomes for their children.