Advocacy and Public Policy


Infant Mortality

• Children’s Act of 2010 (S. 3968) – Status: Introduced. Sponsor(s): Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT). Establishes a National Council on Children, with the purpose of improving preventive services and enhancing the well-being of young people. Reducing infant mortality and the number of babies born at a low birth weight as an objective.


Sens. Alexander, Dodd Mark National Prematurity Awareness Day

• On November 17, National Prematurity Awareness Day, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) spoke on the Senate floor to mark the occasion. Sen. Dodd also urged colleagues to cosponsor the “Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers Who Deliver Infants Early (PREEMIE) Act,” commenting, “This important bill expands research into the causes and prevention of prematurity and increases education and support services related to prematurity.”

Federal Agency News

New IOM Report Studies the Impact of Calcium and Vitamin D Intake

A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) seeks to reconcile the many conflicting opinions that experts have voiced in recent years about Vitamin D and calcium intake. Some researchers have urged people to increase intake of these minerals as a way of preventing conditions like preeclampsia, whereas others have questioned their utility. Overall, the committee found “that the evidence supported a role for these nutrients in bone health but not in other health conditions.”

HHS Seeks Evaluation of the Text4Baby Program

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is currently seeking comments from stakeholders about the Text4Baby program. The agency collecting information about the utility of the program and the types of women who utilize it. In November, the program announced that it is planning a significant expansion, with the goal of reaching one-million mothers.

In the News

Higher Risk of Preeclampsia Linked to Donor Eggs

A recent study conducted at a Rhode Island hospital and published in Obstetrics and Gynecology points to a potential link between the use of donor eggs during the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process and preeclampsia. Though the study was small and researchers called for further study, the results showed that “about five percent of women who used their own eggs for IVF developed preeclampsia, compared to almost 17 percent of women who used donor eggs.”


Registration Open for Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine 2011 Conference

Registration has now opened for the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s 2011 annual conference. The conference, which will be held in San Francisco from February 7-12, will feature several sessions that touch on the topic of preeclampsia.


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Heard on the Hill – 111th Congress, Second Session

Congressional Briefing to Mark Prematurity Awareness Month

On November 30, the Women’s Health Task Force of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, in conjunction with other women’s health organizations, will co-host a Capitol Hill briefing. The panel of speakers will discuss risk factors for preterm birth, as well as the findings of the annual March of Dimes 50-state survey on prematurity.

In the News

Op-Ed Calls for Increased Focus on Maternal Health

Annie Murphy Paul, the author of Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives, states in a Washington Post op-ed piece that there has been inadequate attention paid to maternal health in the United States. A woman’s health during pregnancy, Paul notes, can have a significant impact on her child’s future development and well-being.

Recent Study Shows Bed Rest During Pregnancy Can Have Negative Impacts

Dr. Judith Maloni, a professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University, recently conducted a study showing that bed rest during pregnancy can have negative consequences. Though many health care providers recommend bed rest as a way of preventing premature birth, Dr. Maloni found that it can also increase the likelihood of certain complications—including high blood pressure and preeclampsia.

March of Dimes “Report Card” Shows Some Improvement in Premature Birth Rate

On November 17, the March of Dimes issued its annual “report card” on preterm birth in the United States—which demonstrated mixed results. Though the preterm birth rate has dropped in 32 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. earned an overall low grade of “D” from researchers. Said March of Dimes President Jennifer Howse, “We believe this decline is the beginning of a trend, but must be supported by better health care, new research and adoption of intervention programs to lower the risk of preterm birth.”


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Members of Congress will return the third week of November for an abbreviated lame duck session - a post-election legislative session during which members convene to wrap up unfinished business before the end of the calendar year. The agenda will be focused on items necessary for consideration before Congress officially adjourns, including federal government spending allocations (federal appropriations) for all government agencies, departments and programs – including the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – two agencies of importance to preeclampsia research and prevention efforts. The start of the new Congressional session will also bring a number of changes that may potentially impact preeclampsia-related government policy:

Women in the 112th (2011-2012) Congress

There are 76 female legislators serving in the House of Representatives in the current Congress. Next January, when we begin the new Congress, the number of women legislators in the House will drop to 73 (50-D, 23-R).

There are currently 17 female Senators in the current Congress, seven of whom ran for reelection this year. Of the seven, five have secured a place in the 112th Congress. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is awaiting the results of the final vote tally. Should she be reelected, the number of female Senators will remain at 17.

Maternal and Child Health Issues

Starting January 1, 2011, the new Congress will include three additional nurses and eight additional doctors. New members of Congress with health care backgrounds represent the following professions: nursing, heart surgeons, anesthesiologists, general surgeons, osteopathic physicians, family practitioners, ophthalmologists and optometrists. In total, there will be 19 members serving in the House of Representatives and five Senators who have health care backgrounds.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, many of the members most active in sponsoring maternal health-related bills will return to Capitol Hill for the 112th Congress. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who introduced the Gestational Diabetes (GEDI) Act (H.R. 5354) both won reelection. Similarly, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), the sponsor of the Improvements in Global Maternal and newborn health Outcomes while Maximizing Successes (MOMS) Act (H.R. 5268); Steve Cohen (D-TN), the sponsor of the Nationally Enhancing the Wellbeing of Babies through Outreach and Research Now (NEWBORN) Act (H.R. 3470); and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), the sponsor of the Maximizing Optimal Maternity Services Act (H.R. 5807), won their respective reelection bids. These bills will need to be reintroduced in the new Congress to be considered.

Lamar Alexander (R-TN), sponsor of the Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who Deliver Infants Early (PREEMIE) act (S. 3906) was not up for reelection during this election cycle and will return to Congress. His lead co-sponsor Christopher Dodd (D-CT) retired from Congress, so Senator Alexander will be working to identify another lead Democratic champion for his legislation, which reauthorizes several programs of importance across federal health agencies.


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PREEMIE Act (Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who Deliver Infants Early Act) (S. 3906) - Status: Introduced. Sponsors: Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT). Reauthorizes programs Congress established in 2006 to address premature birth. Calls for expanding work conducted at the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Health Resources and Services Administration to conduct research and improve access to prenatal care. Among its provisions, the legislation creates trans-disciplinary research centers, will result in additional epidemiological studies, and supports telemedicine services to improve access to care. Expands and supports federal activities conducted under the 2006 statute, which would otherwise expire at the end of fiscal year 2011 (September 30, 2011). (Text of legislation is forthcoming)


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Raising Awareness of Hypertension (H. Res. 1656) - Status: Introduced. Sponsor: Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). Aims to increase awareness of hypertension and reduce its prevalence in the United States through education, research, community programs, culturally competent strategies, and efforts to reduce the excess salt content in foods. The resolution notes that women with high blood pressure are more likely to experience certain complications during pregnancy, including kidney and other organ damage, low birth weight, early delivery, stillbirth, and maternal mortality.


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111th Congress, Second Session

Congress has adjourned until after the November 2nd election. For the next few weeks, members of Congress will be focused, almost exclusively, on campaigning for re-election. Congress is expected to return in the third week of November for a “lame duck” session - a post-election legislative session during which members convene to wrap up unfinished business before the end of the calendar year. Because these sessions include those members who failed to win reelection and some who are retiring, lame duck sessions are not usually very productive and can be very volatile and difficult to predict.

While the exact agenda for the upcoming lame duck session is still unclear, measures that will likely be taken up include a food safety bill and certain tax provisions. In addition, Congress must address how to fund the federal government for the next fiscal year as they have yet to finalize all of the various bills that fund current government services and programs, including funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

Continue to check back regularly for feedback and insight on issues of interest before and after the election, during the congressional lame duck session and as the federal agencies continue to conduct business.


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Nationally Enhancing the Wellbeing of Babies through Outreach and Research Now (NEWBORN) Act (H.R. 3470) – Status: Passed House. Sponsor: Rep. Steven Cohen (D-TN). Authorizes $10 million for Fiscal Year 2011 and $50 million between 2011 and 2015 for a grant program to create, implement, and oversee pilot programs in areas with high rates of infant mortality.


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Posted on in Advocacy and Public Policy

National Nurse-Managed Health Clinic Week (S. Res. 643) – Status: Passed Senate. Sponsor: Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI). Recognizes the role that nurse-managed clinics play in the health care system, designating the week of October 3 as “National Nurse-Managed Health Clinic Week.” States that clinics offer a broad scope of services that may improve access to care in communities, including prenatal care.

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