Tuesday July 19, 2020
Harris County Commissioners Court today unanimously approved a multimillion dollar initiative to serve the health care needs of women and children, a top priority for the office of Judge Lina Hidalgo.
The Maternal and Child Health Program was initiated in Precinct 1 by Commissioner Ellis and championed by Judge Hidalgo as part of her focus on advancing opportunities for families and children. Today’s unanimous decision will allocate American Rescue Plan dollars to fund an evidence-based home visitation program that aims to improve and expand access to health care for Harris County mothers and children. In particular, it will address the alarming rates of maternal mortality among African American women in Harris County—who are three times more likely to die than the national average and 10 times more likely to die compared to women overall in industrialized countries.
“Having children and starting a family should be one of the most beautiful times of a woman’s life. But in Texas, and particularly for African American women, it too often turns to tragedy,” said Judge Hidalgo. “I am so proud to continue our commitment to children and families, and to engage on yet another vital issue that county government had ignored for too long.”
The home visitation program will match approximately 300 moms and their children in four cohorts lasting about two years each, and will guide them through the process of pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. The coordinators will provide these mothers with all of the support they need to be safe and healthy during a very vulnerable time in their lives. Visits will include wellness checks, prenatal care, and connections to healthcare and other needed services. This program will also serve children directly by connecting them to health care at an early age to ensure that critical early developmental health milestones are reached and any conditions that arise are caught and treated early.
Home visitation programs are shown to reduce maternal and infant mortality. A Florida program reduced black infant mortality by about 30% and a Chicago program decreased infant mortality by nearly 40% in target areas.
This program is another step in the county’s commitment to improve the lives of women and children. Harris County family and early childhood investments that have been recently implemented include a $48 million dollar investment in child care announced earlier this summer and a Child Tax Credit policy which obtained over $13 million dollars in federal tax credits for Harris County families. The county has also implemented best-in-class family-friendly workplace policies, including 12 weeks paid parental leave, additional sick leave and resources for finding child care.
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