Voices for Ohio’s Children released today its report on Ohio stakeholder views on optimizing the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. The report captures the observations of over 150 people from five Voices’ regional forums held in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Portsmouth and Toledo. Health, education, human services, advocacy and government –related women and men gathered in five separate cities in October 2018 to share their thoughts and opinions on what a healthy first three years looks like, including the pregnancy of the baby’s mother. Participants highlighted what is working well in Ohio, where there are gaps in care, and public policy changes that could bring improvements during this critical time in a child’s development.
“Birth to age three is a critical time in a child’s life,” said Brandi Slaughter, CEO of Voices for Ohio’s Children. “The health care the child and his mother receive both before and after his birth, can dramatically impact his physical and emotional development. We wanted to hear from people in the field about what Ohio is doing well and what Ohio could do better in supporting the baby’s health during these first three years, particularly in families whose health care is paid for by Medicaid.”
Many of the observations about what success looks like were related to social determinants of health, such as having stable housing, free of violence, and having access to transportation to get to medical appointments. Medicaid managed care plans are playing bigger roles in addressing those needs, participants reported. But participants noted access problems with speech services, mental health services for baby and mother, and pediatric and maternal dental care. The expansion of community health workers, the single point of entry for accessing home visiting services and the Medicaid expansion, which helps women to be healthier at the point of conception, were all positives that were noted.
The report contains forty proposals which traverse federal and state policy. They stretch from increasing provider reimbursement in some areas to tweaking Medicaid home visiting rules to lowering barriers to affordable housing.
“What I think is clear from listening to these stakeholders is that baby thrives when health, education and social supports are all functioning together,” Slaughter noted. “That says to me that whether we work in the health space or the childcare space or whatever space, we need to remember that we are advocating for and serving families, and they need all the services to work together.”
“We hope to see a process for expanded stakeholder input that our new Governor will embrace. We are happy that he is focused on the well-being of children, and we think this report will shed some light on how connected health, education and social supports need to be to foster effective child development."