Roundtable: Rep. Chrissy Houlahan on Addressing Maternal Care and Health Disparities

July 20, 2021

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan recently joined a virtual roundtable conversation hosted by AmeriHealth Caritas to discuss social determinants of health, maternal care, and the lingering challenges facing Pennsylvania as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rep. Houlahan opened the conversation by highlighting new health care initiatives in Congress related to addressing racial disparities in maternal health, including the formation of a maternal health caucus. She noted that access to safe housing, reliable transportation, and good nutrition correspond to whether people will receive equitable care and access to medical treatments. She noted, “None of these are commonly associated with health, but they each have an immense impact on equitable treatment.”

Rep. Houlahan also commented on the need to diversify the prenatal health care workforce to help improve health equity. She also discussed how funds from the American Recuse Plan Act were being used to help with maternal and early childhood home visits during the COVID-19 crisis.

Following Rep. Houlahan’s remarks, Danielle Brooks, Director of Health Equity at AmeriHealth Caritas, highlighted the company’s efforts to address maternal health care in Pennsylvania. She noted that the expansion of telehealth has been important to reach vulnerable populations, and explained how AmeriHealth quickly reviewed demographic data and identified community-specific strategies to assist in outreach efforts to expand care. On social determinants of health, Brooks added, “Health is not within the four corners of a hospital wall or a practice. Health is a continuum. When you’re able to engage your community directly with the services they need, that’s when you’re able to be truly successful.”

Eric Kiehl, Director of Policy and Partnership at the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers (PACHC), stressed the importance of delivering localized care to patients, sharing that “our focus is about creating a healthier community and making sure [our clients] have a health care home.” He said this effort includes making sure that people are getting vaccinated, receiving regular dental care, and accessing preventive care.

Natalie Coughlin, Manager of Development and Communication at Maternal and Child Health Consortium of Chester County (MCHC), shared how the COVID-19 crisis has illuminated the need for a holistic view of care and the public health disparities that exist for some families in Pennsylvania. In addressing these disparities, she said MCHC’s programs “are designed within a social context to improve health care access and quality education access and readiness… which ultimately contribute to someone’s quality of life and can drive down health care costs.”

Pennsylvania State Rep. Morgan Cephas reflected on the root cause of these inequities in care. She stressed, “We must invest in the necessary resources to address social determinants of health… Let’s be intentional about where we make investments, so we don’t fall short.”

The roundtable concluded with Rep. Houlahan thanking all the participants for the conversation.

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