On March 31, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation Maternity Full Court Press Team met to discuss the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 and its implications for Pennsylvania.
Women's Health Activist Movement Global (WHAMglobal) Community Engagement and Policy Associate Morgan Overton led an overview of the Momnibus. Overton reviewed how the Momnibus would improve maternal health outcomes and equity. Proposed initiatives include strategic investments in community-based programs and social determinants of health; new studies and more comprehensive data collection; expanding the perinatal workforce; support for maternal mental health conditions, substance use disorders, incarcerated moms, Native American moms, and maternal vaccinations; and innovation in digital tools and payment models.
Nan Strauss, Managing Director of Policy, Advocacy and Grantmaking at Every Mother Counts provided a brief update on advocacy at the federal level. Strauss said that Every Mother Counts has focused their advocacy on the twelve bills and related issues included in the Momnibus, and that the most crucial work focuses on equity and accountability in maternal health.
A state legislative panel followed, featuring Majority Whip Representative Donna Oberlander, Women's Health Caucus Co-Chair Senator Judy Schwank, and Women's Health Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Mary Jo Daley. Jewish Healthcare Foundation Chief Policy Officer Robert Ferguson moderated the panel.
The panelists commented on the Momnibus and its implications for Pennsylvania and discussed the opportunities in Pennsylvania to advance the Full Court Press agenda, to modernize midwifery, certify and reimburse doulas and perinatal community health workers, and increase enrollment in the WIC Program and connections to wraparound services.
The panel was followed by a discussion among the entire Maternal Health Full Court Press Team to explore how the provisions of the Momnibus related to team members' work, how the Full Court Press could help to advance the Momnibus, and how current work in Pennsylvania reflects the Momnibus and could inform the Full Court Press Team's work.
The team noted a great need to help people improve their health and quality of life before pregnancy through diet and health coaching, and to support health after pregnancy through one year postpartum. They noted how both the Momnibus and the Full Court Press's provisions support these goals through workforce development, social determinants of health, and extended eligibility.
The team also discussed how the Momnibus and Full Court Press can help establish respectful care and address implicit bias in maternal health care. They explained how doulas can fill an advocate role and serve as a buffer between patient and provider, and how a more diversified workforce will also support more respectful patient encounters. Overall, they called for greater education, attention, and accountability on this issue.