Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration
Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration

Maternal & Child Health Newsletter, Iss. 22

News from NIHCM

The health literacy of adolescents is a significant concern, especially as teens are increasingly accessing health information online and the credibility of this information is largely unknown. In a new issue brief, “The Case for Investing in Youth Health Literacy: One Step on the Path to Achieving Health Equity for Adolescents,” we discuss opportunities for health plans and foundations to potentially reduce future health care spending by investing in programs and initiatives to improve health literacy during adolescence, a critical developmental time period when many health behaviors are initiated. The issue brief shares recent strategies proposed by the federal government to achieve health equity and improve health literacy, including specific strategies relevant to health plans and foundations. The brief also highlights several examples of current health plan and health plan foundation efforts to improve adolescent health literacy.

NIHCM Foundation recently hosted a webinar entitled “The Business Case for Breastfeeding: Strategies for Health Plans,” which discussed strategies for health plans to educate employers on the value of supporting breastfeeding employees in the workplace, as well as ways health plans can support their own members to initiate breastfeeding and continue upon returning to work. The webinar featured presentations by Laurie Beck, U.S. Lactation Consultant Association; Cathy Carothers, Every Mother Inc; David Moroney, Volunteer State Health Plan; and Xavia Mitchell, Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey.

NIHCM Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health Council member Harvinder Sareen, PhD, Director of Clinical Programs for State Sponsored Business at WellPoint, earned this year’s Joy Wheeler Leadership Award for her outstanding leadership with Medicaid Health Plans of America (MHPA), including her role on the advisory board for MHPA's Center for Best Practices and her efforts as a co-lead on MHPA's data workgroup. These groups work to support MHPA's efforts to disseminate best practices and key research findings about Medicaid health plans and their members to the health care community. Dr. Sareen was chosen for the award by the MHPA Nominations Committee to publicly recognize her many contributions to MHPA this year.

Summaries of Recent MCH News

  • The President's Challenge: Healthy Babies, by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
  • Traumatic Brain Injury in Children and Teens
  • Breastfeeding Success Story
    Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Breastfeeding Coordinator Laurie Haessely, MA, RD, IBCLC, of the Department of Public Health in Riverside County, CA, in partnership with The Children’s Project, developed and implemented one of the most successful exclusive breastfeeding programs in the nation. Using Dr. Gerald Newmark’s book How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Parents and Children Too! as a guide, the 10-part Peer to Peer Breastfeeding Program was created to counter the low breastfeeding initiation and duration rates of African-American women participating in Riverside County’s WIC program. Six years after the program began, exclusive breastfeeding rates of women participating in the program rose by 119 percent. The 10-part Peer to Peer Breastfeeding Program is easily adapted to any ethnic or cultural group and has been successful in other settings. To request a free copy of the 10-part Peer to Peer Breastfeeding Program, contact The Children’s Project.

Promising Practices in MCH

NIHCM Foundation’s Promising Practices in Maternal and Child Health fact sheets highlight and recognize emerging and promising collaborations between health plans and other MCH stakeholders. Each quarter, NIHCM selects one partnership success story to highlight in a NIHCM fact sheet. NIHCM’s first fact sheet, published in September 2011, highlighted health plan partnerships with the text4baby program. We continue to invite you to submit your public-private partnership success stories for inclusion in the Promising Practices in MCH database, which we will be launching soon.

Health Plan Initiatives to Improve MCH

The Highmark Foundation awarded a $105,000 grant to Sacred Heart Hospital to help fund five school-based health centers in the Allentown School District. Located in one of the largest urban school districts in Pennsylvania, these health centers provide a medical home and critical primary care services to a low-income, largely uninsured population of students and families.

Premera Blue Cross recently conducted a childhood obesity prevention pilot program in partnership with Bastyr University. The Active Pediatric and Parental Lifestyle Education (APPLE) Core program aims to prevent or reverse childhood obesity through holistic, family-based health education. The APPLE Core pilot will inform planning for a week-long day camp set to begin in the summer of 2012.

BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and Leadership Buffalo teamed up to host Youth Summit 2011, a conference for high school students that focused on healthy decision making and community leadership. An assembly of 250 local 10th- and 11th-grade leaders participated in activities with topics including overcoming obstacles, serving the community, nutrition and exercise, and how to combat bullying.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation is continuing its efforts to keep kids active and engaged with nature through a 3-year, $701,000 grant to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program. In addition to expanding Kids in Parks within North Carolina, the funding will also be used to establish a National Technical Training and Resource Center, allowing Kids in Parks to serve as a national model.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation has awarded five new Shape the State grants to Tennessee middle schools. Grantees each received $10,000 to spend on physical education equipment, curriculum and teacher training. Shape the State is part of the foundation’s ongoing efforts to reduce Tennessee’s childhood obesity rate, which currently exceeds 20 percent, sixth highest in the nation.

The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey awarded $396,000 in grants to 23 organizations focused on promoting health, well-being and quality of life for New Jersey residents. Grantees include Boys & Girls Clubs in New Jersey, to support Triple Play programs addressing childhood obesity; HomeFront, to fund staffing for the Health Maven Program for homeless children and families; KinderSmile Foundation, to provide oral hygiene demonstrations to preschoolers; The Valerie Fund, to offer counseling to children with cancer and their families; and West Bergen Mental Healthcare and Youth Development Clinic, to maintain youth depression screening programs.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation has released a new toolkit called “Determining Health Benefit Designs to be Offered on a State Health Insurance Exchange.” This is the third in the foundation’s series of health reform toolkits, which aim to share experiences, models and lessons from Massachusetts’ implementation of health reform in order to assist other states as they implement parts of the ACA.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida is co-sponsoring the 28th Annual Florida Literacy Conference this coming May. This conference will include sessions and workshops on improving health literacy. In past years, presentations have covered topics such as promising practices in health literacy, the role of community health advocates and strategies for improving health communications.

The Highmark Foundation has announced the release of a new report, "Bullying Prevention: The Impact on Pennsylvania School Children," covering the foundation’s wide-scale implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Through the Highmark Healthy High 5 initiative, this anti-bullying program has been introduced to 400 Pennsylvania schools, exposing 13 percent of the state’s public school students to bullying prevention resources and making it the largest effort of its kind in the nation.

Partner Spotlight

Grantmakers in Health co-authored an article published in the October issue of Health Affairs. “Philanthrophy And Disparities: Progress, Challenges, And Unfinished Business” considers the work that has been done to reduce health disparities over the past decade and presents new opportunities for philanthropy to help improve health equity.

The Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) has published a new issue brief entitled “Health Insurance Exchanges: Key Considerations for Maternal and Child Health Programs.” This brief offers comments on the HHS proposed rule for the establishment of health insurance exchanges, providing specific recommendations for MCH leaders to ensure that the critical needs of the MCH population are addressed in exchange planning.

AMCHP also released an issue brief reporting on the results of an environmental scan it conducted of state Title V program activities related to autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities (ASD/DD). The brief, “Environmental Scan: How State Title V Programs Are Responding to Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Developmental Disabilities,” analyzes the mechanisms used by Title V programs to meet the needs of children with ASD/DD.

NACCHO has recently updated and improved the Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health section of its website, which will now include all the information previously disseminated through the organization’s biweekly email. The NACCHO website also has a new list of maternal and child health/home visiting resources on the Health Reform Resources page.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently expanded its guidelines on safe sleep for babies. In an updated policy statement, “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment,” and in a corresponding technical report, the AAP makes new recommendations for breastfeeding and immunization, both of which are associated with reduced risk of SIDS, and it advises against using bumper pads in cribs.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials has announced that its 2011-2012 President’s Challenge will focus on reducing infant mortality and prematurity in the United States. The Healthy Babies Project is committed to developing a national strategy for reducing the high rate of infant mortality, working with state officials to implement and adapt best practices to ensure maximum impact.