Improving the Quality of Maternal and Child Health Care in the United States: State-Level Initiatives and Leadership
Saundra K. Schneider
Maternal and child health care is an important public policy issue in the United States. First, and foremost, it is a barometer of the overall well-being and conscience of the nation. 1 Women and children are two of the most vulnerable groups in American society. Consequently, they should receive appropriate and effective medical treatment. The extent to which women and children are actually shielded from preventable and unnecessary medical problems tells us a great deal about the value priorities and moral commitment of the country.
Second, the issue is important for pragmatic reasons. Stated simply, maternal and child health care is cost-effective. It has an immediate impact on the health care status of pregnant women and infants. It also has long-range societal consequences. Healthy mothers are more likely to deliver healthy babies. Healthy babies have a better chance of becoming healthy children. And healthy children do better in school and are more apt to grow up to become productive citizens. By improving the health care status of mothers and children, we are able to deal with a host of important social issues.
Maternal and child health care is also a very symbolic and politi-