By Karen Stokes
On Thursday, Governor Tony Evers announced that his upcoming budget proposal will include a nearly 28 million dollar investment in the “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” initiatives.
These initiatives are aimed at improving access for preventive health care such as cancer screenings, health exams, STI testings, supporting healthier pregnancies and births and addressing racial disparities in maternal and child healthcare.
“The health of women and their babies is an important factor in making sure our state is strong and healthy,” said Evers. Right now, many women across the state aren’t getting the healthcare they deserve.”
According to infant mortality data compiled by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of infant deaths for Black babies in Wisconsin is nearly three times as high as white babies.
The infant mortality rate for white infants was 4.8 per 1,000 live births, compared with 14.2 deaths per 1,000 live births for Black infants from 2014 to 2016.
To reduce the number of infant deaths in Wisconsin and to support women during and after their pregnancies, the governor’s budget will strengthen the state public health infrastructure to support local efforts to address infant mortality by creating an Infant Mortality Prevention Program at the Department of Health Services. This program will assist families to remove barriers to healthy pregnancies like unstable housing, lack of nutritional and family supports and unemployment.
“We can’t have healthy communities without healthy women and babies,” said Evers. “That is why my budget will connect the dots and increase access and coverage, as well as create innovative programs to ensure quality health care for women and healthy beginnings for our children.”
The governor’s proposal will expand the Well Woman Program and bring Planned Parenthood back into the fold as a trusted provider of healthcare services through an increase to the Women’s Health Block Grant and changes to Title V and X eligibility.
In 2016, former Governor Scott Walker signed bills that cut the amount of public money that goes to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin by several million dollars a year.
“Planned Parenthood, it’s an important issue for me,” Evers said. “There will be some that will oppose it but in the end, we believe we can make this happen.”
The “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” initiatives also include additional funding for the Family Foundations Home Visiting Program, a home visiting program managed by the Department of Children and Families targeting mothers at a high risk for a poor birth outcome, increased funding to address racial disparities in maternal and child services through the minority health grant, as well as grant funding for doula training and Medicaid coverage for doula services.
Zeana Wilson, a mother of a vibrant four-year-old has been utilizing the WIC program and has been a patient at Milwaukee Health Services since she was six months pregnant.
“Because of the program, my daughter’s alive and thriving,” said Wilson. “She was very ill when she was born, she had jaundice. The WIC program allowed for me to get nutrition while I was pregnant, and it allows me to feed my family healthy food.”
“This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue, it’s a kid issue, it’s a Wisconsin issue. It’s about our values,” said Evers.