Lawmakers to introduce legislation to address maternal/infant health crisis in PA

Coronavirus crisis underscores need for material, infant supports

PITTSBURGH, April 23 – Even before the arrival of the coronavirus, Pennsylvania’s mothers and newborns were suffering through a quiet public health crisis, with infant mortality rates above the national average, an issue that can only have been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Recently two state lawmakers, Reps. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, and Bridget Kosierowski, D-Lackawanna, moved to introduce legislation that would provide critical support for newborns and mothers alike. Innamorato’s proposed legislation would direct the Department of Health to create a statewide program that would deliver a “baby box” to all families of newborns. Families wishing to receive a “baby box” would first complete an educational module that includes newborn safe sleep best practices.

"Bringing home an infant is an incredible challenge even in the best of times,” Innamorato said. “I'm proud to introduce a bill to provide a 'baby box' of much-needed supplies and additional supportive services for new parents suddenly navigating this entirely on their own."

Innamorato’s legislation would complement Kosierowski’s bill, H.B. 2335, which would leverage federal dollars to expand Pennsylvania’s existing maternal home visitation program by at least 20 percent each year until it becomes a universal program connecting professionals like nurses and social workers with new parents. Doing so, Kosierowski noted, would save money in the long run with better health outcomes, improved child development and academic success, and parents who are better prepared to handle the toughest job in the world.

“Motherhood is already challenging for those who know where their next meal is coming from, have secure housing, are financially stable, and have the support of family and friends,” Kosierowski said. “But what about the mothers who don’t, where do they turn? Especially during a national pandemic! This bill will help our kids and save money in the long run by providing better health outcomes and improved child development.”