Our Allies in Michigan – led by the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health (MCMCH) – have been working hard to highlight racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes and to build urgency around the need to achieve birth equity. Last year, their work with the governor and legislature paid off with several crucial wins, including $23.5 million in funding for a comprehensive plan to address disparities and an executive order that requires health professionals to undergo implicit bias training.
In late 2019, advocates met with Governor Gretchen Whitmer to sound the alarm around racial disparities in birth outcomes, and they were excited to hear in the governor’s 2020 State of the State address a call to “acknowledge and address health disparities.” The Governor followed her call to action with a “Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies” budget proposal that included a series of investments to improve maternal health, and recognized the importance of implicit bias training for health professionals.
The impacts of COVID 19 reinforced the need for implicit bias training, and on July 9, 2020, Governor Whitmer issued an Executive Order requiring all health professionals to undergo implicit bias training to obtain or renew their licenses. The new rule is scheduled to take effect in mid-2021. Governor Whitmer also voiced her support for the incorporation of implicit bias training into university and medical curriculum to reduce racial disparities in the health care system.
When the 2021 budget was approved, it also had big wins for reducing infant mortality rates and addressing the racial disparity that exists in care provided to expectant mothers and their babies. It included an additional $23.5 million dedicated to extending Medicaid coverage to pregnant women for 12 months after giving birth, 500 new home visiting slots and support for cross-agency home visiting infrastructure, and expanded behavioral health services for pregnant/postpartum women and new families.
“It’s crucial that we change the systems and communities where racism and other underlying social determinants of health are deeply rooted,” says Amy Zaagman, executive director of MCMCH. “Thanks to the hard work of Michigan advocates – and the tools, resources, and connections we get through the Alliance – Michigan took some very significant steps forward this year.”