In testimony today before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Related Agencies, March of Dimes President and CEO Stacey D. Stewart said the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the maternal and infant health crisis and urged lawmakers to adequately fund key programs that are critical to the health of moms and babies. Stewart recommended funding priorities for FY 2022, including critical and groundbreaking research, monitoring systems, screenings, and quality improvement programs that focus on improving health outcomes for women and their infants.
“The U.S. remains among the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth and it’s even more dire for women and babies of color,” Stewart warned lawmakers. “Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant mortality, which has slowly declined over the past few years. Yet, still two babies die every hour and two women die from pregnancy complications every day.”
She commended the Biden-Harris Administration for its commitment to eliminating these health disparities and said it’s imperative to advance new policies like the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act. This sweeping package of bills, aims to fill gaps in existing legislation to improve health outcomes for Black moms who are dying at three to four times the rate of their White counterparts. To read Stewart’s written testimony, click here.
Stewart offered the following recommendations for FY22 funding priorities:
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) March of Dimes requests the Subcommittee provide at least $1.7 billion for NICHD’s groundbreaking biomedical research activities on preterm birth, maternal mortality, maternal substance use and prenatal substance exposure.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Surveillance for Emerging Threats to Mothers and Babies Network: March of Dimes recommends funding for CDC’s Surveillance for Emerging Threats to Mothers and Babies Network (SET-NET) within the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) at $100 million to provide real-time clinical and survey data nationwide on the impact of COVID-19.
- Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs): March of Dimes requests $30 million to reach all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico to maximize the capabilities of MMRCs. Funded by CDC in 25 states, MMRCs identify, review and characterize maternal deaths and prevention opportunities. However, more standardized data collection is needed to help examine all the factors contributing to severe maternal mortality, preventable deaths and poor birth outcomes.
- Perinatal Quality Collaborative (PQCs): March of Dimes requests $30 million to fully scale PQCs as needed in all states. PQCs are state or multistate networks working to improve the quality of obstetric care and improve outcomes.
- Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS): March of Dimes requests $2 million to sustain PRAMS. This survey system collects state-specific, population-based data on maternal attitudes and experiences covering about 83 percent of all U.S. births.
- Newborn Screening: Both the Newborn Screening Quality Assurance Program (NSQAP) at CDC and the Heritable Disorders program at Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) have significantly improved the quality of newborn screening programs. March of Dimes requests $28 million and $28.883 million for these programs, respectively.
HRSA Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB)
- Screening and Treatment for Maternal Depression and Related Behavior Disorders Program: March of Dimes requests $10 million for the Maternal Depression Program. This program provides state grants to address maternal depression and other behavioral health conditions through psychiatric consultation, care coordination and training for front-line providers.
- Maternal Mental Health Hotline: March of Dimes is requesting $5 million to allow for this 24-hour hotline to provide text messaging services, culturally-appropriate support and continue public awareness efforts.