Blueprint aims to improve health of Michigan’s moms, babies


Policy analysts say paid parental-leave policies would benefit new moms and their infants. - PAULAPHOTO / SHUTTERSTOCK
  • paulaphoto / Shutterstock
  • Policy analysts say paid parental-leave policies would benefit new moms and their infants.

Like many states, Michigan struggles with dismal infant and maternal mortality rates. However, a new report provides a blueprint for ways to help turn the tide.

The "Right Start 2020" report released by the Michigan League for Public Policy notes that despite improvements in outcomes for babies and moms over time, nationally Michigan ranks 36th for infant mortality and 30th for maternal mortality.

Amber Bellazaire, health policy analyst with the League, says the health of mothers and their children is an important issue for everyone because they are the foundation of society.

"If we aren't doing well by families, it really highlights where our priorities are, or where they are not," says Bellazaire. "If a woman who is expectant dies in childbirth or thereafter, that has ripple effects not just for her child but certainly for her family and for the broader community."

The report encourages policymakers to protect women's access to health care before, during and after pregnancy as well as extending Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum from the current level of 60 days.

Bellazaire says structural changes are also needed, including expanding the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, and improving paid parental leave policies to better support new moms.

"They sometimes continue breastfeeding for longer periods of time," says Bellazaire. "It has been shown to reduce instances of pre-term birth or low birth weight, and it's good for employers, too, because women who have access to paid leave tend to stay in the workforce more than women who do not."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's recently announced "Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies," initiative would expand efforts shown to benefit infant health and development. Bellazaire encourages state lawmakers to seriously consider the maternal and child health investments that have been proposed.

"Of course, hard decisions, budget decisions have to be made," says Bellazaire. "But this is certainly a place that is worth the investment because intervening early, investing early saves money ultimately in terms of lost productivity and seeing poorer health outcomes later on."

The report also stresses the value of state and federal investments in home visiting programs, health screenings for children and moms, and programs that encourage positive parenting practices.

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