Tag: maternal health

Paid Leave Must Have a Place at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health

The following is a statement from the Paid Leave for All coalition, of which 1,000 Days is part.

Dear members of WHCHNH Advisory Committee Members,

As parents, caregivers, early childhood and public health experts, race and gender equity advocates, social justice organizations, and on behalf of our tens of millions of members, we strongly urge you to include paid family and medical leave in the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and its national strategy. We recommend the White House continue to promote its original proposal of at least 12 weeks of inclusive and comprehensive paid family and medical leave for all working people as a public health imperative. 

Paid leave is a proven tool in addressing the United States’ most pressing health issues, whether it be mitigating the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, addressing breastfeeding needs in light of a national formula shortage, addressing our worsening maternal mortality rates, or improving our overall health outcomes and families’ well-being. It is also a tool for alleviating the systemic racism and sexism in health care, by allowing more people and those with more caregiving responsibilities access and time to care for themselves along with their loved ones. Yet only 23 percent of workers in this country have access to paid family leave through their jobs and we remain one of the only countries in the world without this protection. 

Paid leave is interconnected with a broad number of health indicators and outcomes. Workers without access to paid leave are more likely than workers with paid leave to experience financial and material hardships, including being more than twice as likely to be unable to pay for rent or utilities and twice as likely to experience food insecurity. Implementing paid leave in California, for example, reduced very low household food security by about two percentage points. Workers without access to paid leave are also more likely to be uninsured, have trouble paying for medical bills, and have less access to medical care because of the cost. A quarter are not confident they could come up with $400 for an unexpected emergency.

Paid leave is also a critical tool to support healthier pregnancies, better birth outcomes, more successful breastfeeding, and both physical and mental health in the postpartum period. This is particularly important while the United States faces a formula shortage—and has the worst maternal mortality rate among wealthy countries, disproportionately impacting Black women, and one that is worsening after COVID-19. Paid leave is critical to giving birthing people the opportunity to establish breastfeeding patterns as an option for their family, and we know that for those who are able and choose to breastfeed, it plays a powerful role in women’s health. Research has shown that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of heart disease—the leading cause of death among women in the U.S.—as well as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type-2 diabetes, and hypertension later in life. It also has health benefits for the child, including improving the digestive and immune system. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently increased their recommended duration of breastfeeding to two years or beyond, a near impossibility for working families without access to paid leave. For low-income families in New Jersey, where a statewide paid family leave program has been in effect since 2009, researchers found that new mothers who use the state paid leave program breastfeed, on average, one month longer than new mothers who do not use the program. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, if 90 percent of women in the United States breastfed their babies for the first 6 months of life, it would save 900 babies’ lives and $13 billion in healthcare expenses annually.

We know that paid sick, family, and medical leave are critical to the overall health—including mental and emotional health—and well-being of working people, families, and whole communities. They are key to diagnosis, treatment and recovery, and the containment of disease. 

Every one of us is going to need to give and receive care in our lifetimes, and without a federal guarantee of paid leave, we will all suffer. We urge you to include paid family and medical leave in this conference and its related strategies, and to prioritize it across the administration. 

Additional Resources: 

#Marchis4Nutrition: What if moms had access to quality and comprehensive healthcare?

In honor of National Nutrition Month, 1,000 Days is running its annual #Marchis4Nutrition campaign to amplify the critical role the world’s mothers play in nourishing the next generation. During the coming weeks, we will be imagining a world in which moms have the support they need to give their children a healthy start to life. This week we’re asking:

What if moms had access to quality and comprehensive healthcare (before, during and after pregnancy)?

A world in which moms have access to quality and comprehensive healthcare is one where every child and mother survives and thrives.

Without comprehensive coverage that includes, maternity care, childbirth and pediatric services, a woman and her baby do not receive the health services they need. In turn, they are put at greater risk for serious problems including low birthweight, preterm birth, and even death.

In the U.S. and around the world, access to healthcare is vital to reduce the number of deaths related to childbirth. The United States has the worst rate of maternal deaths among wealthy countries. According to a joint ProPublica and NPR investigation, between 700-900 women in America die each year from childbirth or pregnancy related conditions. Sadly, many of these deaths could have been prevented with better care.

In low- and middle-income countries, 1 in 5 babies is born too small (with a low birth weight) resulting in 20% of newborn deaths. Again, having access to proper healthcare before, during and after pregnancy could reduce the infant death rate.

“If moms had access to affordable and quality prenatal care, more moms would survive childbirth and be free from lifelong injuries.”
David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World

Whether they are expecting a baby or not, all women and their families need comprehensive healthcare from a hospital, healthcare provider or community health center. Once a woman becomes pregnant she also needs healthcare coverage for maternity care, breastfeeding services (including counseling and supplies), nutrition education, folic acid supplements and weight management during pregnancy, as well as health screenings for conditions such as anemia, gestational diabetes and post-partum depression.

“Since I became pregnant with my last daughter… I took everything I learned into account and during my pregnancy I attended the health center to receive prenatal care where I was provided with iron and folic acid which I consumed with full knowledge of its importance,”
Vitalina de Leon Santos, ALIANMISAR in Guatemala, read her full story here.

We also need to invest in ensuring healthcare is high-quality and meeting the needs of a community. More trained healthcare workers and better facilities save lives. This requires national policies and guidelines and strong leadership at country-level to prioritize the strengthening of health systems. This also requires healthcare to be affordable. Each year, nearly 100 million people worldwide are pushed into extreme poverty because they must pay for health expenses out of their own pockets.

Moms shouldn’t have to choose between health or poverty. They shouldn’t have to choose between their own health or their child’s health. They shouldn’t have to choose between seeking health treatment or eating nutritious foods. In a world where moms have access to high-quality and comprehensive healthcare (before, during and after pregnancy), these are not choices that they would have to make.

Join the #Marchis4Nutrition conversation on Facebook and Twitter this month and tell us what you think: What does the world look like if moms have access to quality and comprehensive healthcare?

It’s Time to Work Together on Health Care

We at 1,000 Days are encouraged that members of the U.S. Senate put the health and well-being of Americans ahead of politics. We thank all the senators who voted to stop the rushed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – which would have stripped 16 million Americans of their health insurance according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. In particular, we commend Senators Collins, Murkowski and McCain for their courageous votes and calls for bipartisan negotiations through regular and deliberative Senate procedure.

We now urge all Members of Congress from both parties to work together to support and stabilize the health insurance markets and to build on current law to ensure women, infants and young children have access to comprehensive and affordable health care.