MDHHS partners with U-M Youth Policy Lab to evaluate state infant health

LANSING, Mich. (WILX)- The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the University of Michigan Youth Policy Lab have been awarded a grant by Arnold Ventures to conduct a rigorous impact evaluation of Michigan’s Maternal Infant Health Program, the state’s largest evidence-based home visiting program.

The study will support Michigan’s efforts to improve maternal and infant health.

“Effective home visiting programs help kids grow up healthier,” said Robert Gordon, MDHHS director. “Careful program evaluation can help us to make our home visiting programs more effective. We are honored to partner with Arnold Ventures and the Youth Policy Lab, great leaders in the movement for evidence-based policy, to help us learn what works in Michigan.”

Michigan’s infant and maternal mortality rates are higher than the national average. There are significant racial disparities across maternal and infant health. Many of these disparities are created by systemic racism, poverty, access to care, quality of care, and social determinants of health.

“The health and well-being of Michigan mothers, infants and families is of utmost importance to MDHHS,” said Robert Gordon, MDHHS director. “We are committed to assuring that families have access to home visiting programs of the highest quality. The partnership with the University of Michigan and Arnold Ventures will propel this important work further.”

Nationwide home-visiting programs have demonstrated positive impacts on maternal and infant health, child development, and parenting practices. With the Michigan Maternal Infant Health Program, families partner with a team of registered nurses, licensed social workers, registered dieticians, lactation consultants and infant mental health specialists to improve outcomes for moms, babies and their families. The program serves more than 15,000 Medicaid-eligible pregnant women as well as 20,000 infants annually.

Using support from Arnold Ventures, MDHHS and the Youth Policy Lab aim to understand the program’s impact on maternal health, birth outcomes and health care use to identify effective strategies. Also, they are looking to advance practices to improve maternal and infant health.

Nearly $350,000 will go directly to local Maternal Infant Health Program agencies so they can hire community health workers to conduct outreach to pregnant women and parents of newborns.

“We are very excited to continue our partnership with MDHHS and for the opportunity to lead this important evaluation,” said Dr. Robin Jacob, faculty co-director of the Youth Policy Lab. “We believe the study will provide vital information to the state to help them in their efforts to reduce the rates of infant and maternal mortality, and improve the lives of all families in Michigan.”

The project begins this month. It will continue until 2025.

For more information about the U-M Youth Policy, click here.

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