Additional Briefs in the Series
#2. Maternal and Child Health
This brief is one in a series of six on key early childhood issues for state policymakers. The series is designed to assist new state leaders in promoting informed policy decision-making in states to give kids a healthy start in life.
Improving the health and well-being of mothers and young children is an important societal goal. Pregnancy and early life are critical times to ensure healthy development, address health risks, and prevent future problems for women and their children.
Data shows that maternal and child health in the United States is much worse than it should be for a wealthy country with advanced health care services. A significant number of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned impacting maternal and infant health and family economic prosperity. Maternal and infant mortality rates are high, and trends are moving in the wrong direction. Maternal mortality in United States has more than doubled since 1987 and many women have complications during and after pregnancy, including 1 in 10 women who experience pregnancy-related depression. Over 23,000 infants died before the age of 1 in the United States in 2016. For each of these indicators, racially and ethnically diverse families and low-income families are more highly impacted than other families. Because maternal and child health is impacted by a confluence of health care, social, and economic issues, multifaceted approaches are needed to improve maternal and child health.
Federal resources to support maternal and child health are provided to states through Maternal and Child Health Block Grants; Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program; investments in Federally Qualified Health Centers; and Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program. In addition to these federal resources, states have flexibility to design, implement, and fund policies and programs to meet the unique needs of women and children in the state.
1. Help women and families prevent unplanned pregnancies
About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Research has shown that women and children are healthier, achieve better educational outcomes, and have greater financial stability when children are born as a result of a planned pregnancy. States can act to prevent unplanned pregnancies through several strategies.
2. Act to reduce maternal and infant deaths and complications
The causes of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity are multifaceted and complex and therefore require collaboration among multiple state agencies and community partners. States are pursuing many approaches to reducing maternal and infant deaths and improving maternal and infant health.
3. Support maternal and child mental health and social and emotional development
There is strong evidence that pregnancy related depression and other adverse childhood experiences can have a significant impact on the health of children and families. States can impact the lifelong health of women and children if mental health needs are identified and treated early.
Ascend at the Aspen Institute is a hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations that move children and their parents toward educational success and economic security. Ascend takes a two-generation approach to their work—focusing on children and their parents together—and bring a gender and racial equity lens to their analysis. Learn more at https://ascend.aspeninstitute.org.