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Series: Building Your Birth Business and Google’s Mobilegeddon: What Every Birth Professional Needs to Know

April 23rd, 2015 by avatar

Building Your Birth BusinessGoogle announced in February of this year that they would penalize websites that are not “mobile friendly” and push those sites further down in the rankings in their search engines on mobile devices. They stated that the big switch would happen on April 21, 2015 and have “a significant impact on our search results.” As a birth professional, you probably have your own website. You may even maintain the website(s) yourself. You, no doubt, have worked long and hard on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and have appreciated the payoff – a great ranking when customers are looking for classes and other birth services. Could this Google change in ranking transfer over to less website visibility and have an impact on your business? Will this translate into fewer class registrations, a reduction in blog readers, or a scarcity of clients? Don’t panic, here is some information that will help you figure out what you need to know and next steps to take so that you can continue to do what you do best – supporting families during the childbearing year.

What does “mobile-friendly” mean?

Google has defined mobile friendly to mean the following:

  • The site does not contain software that is not readily available on a variety of mobile devices (Flash is an example of such software)
  • The site is readable without having to change the text size.
  • The website is visible completely on the mobile device screen without having to use a horizontal scroll bar or the zoom feature.
  • Links are spaced appropriately so that they can be appropriately accessed and tapped.

There are six classifications of “mobile-friendly” sites, and a complete description of the six categories can be found here.

Why should you care if your site is mobile-friendly?

The millennial generation, the ones having babies now, is a bigger generation than the Baby Boomer generation. Failing to understand them, and market to them in *their* “language” (i.e.: on mobile devices) is a failure to gain their business. Marketing to millennials means learning how they conduct business; *not* waiting for, or expecting them to follow the status quo.

Did you know that  85% of Americans ages 18-29 are smartphone owners, as are 78% of college graduates and 84% of those living in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more per year.

Even more important, younger adults, minorities and lower-income Americans are the most dependent on their smartphone for internet access. Overall, among U.S. adults who own a smartphone, it is estimated that 7% are “smartphone-dependent” which means that at home, they either have limited options to go online or do not have a home based internet service to use, other than through their smartphone or tablet.

If your website does not automatically reformat for a mobile device, users (read: potential customers) may choose to leave immediately or not spend as much time on your website. This could increase your “bounce rate” and lower your “dwell time”… two Google ranking factors.

Nearly 20% of millennials are mobile-only users, meaning they don’t use desktops at all. If a pregnant person can’t sign up for your classes or access your other services from their mobile device, they will find another place to get their childbirth education and other services met.

Why Responsive Design is Important: 10 Key Statistics

 How to Tell if Your Website is Mobile Friendly
  • Use Google’s mobile-friendly test page: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ When you check the pages in your site it will give you a pass/fail grade and will also provide links to describe what can be done to fix any issues that are found. This is an important step because it helps you understand how Google views your site and it’s potential impact on your ranking.
  • Visit your website on several mobile devices.
    Make sure you click through every page so that you get the feel for what it is like for a potential client. Check your links, your menus, your inquiry forms and any other clickable objects to be sure they work as expected. Check how the elements on the pages are displayed to see if anything feels clunky or looks unattractive.

Mobile Version vs Mobile Responsive

Some website builders provide a mobile version of your website. This means the content is duplicated into a separate version that renders only in a mobile device. Other website builders or templates are mobile responsive which means that the website automatically responds to the display width of the device without rendering a new version. Ideally, you should have a mobile responsive website.

  • Wix is not mobile responsive; you have to manually set your mobile version using their Mobile Editor
  • Weebly offers some mobile responsive themes. If your theme isn’t mobile responsive Weebly creates a mobile version of your site automatically.
  • Squarespace claims that all of its themes are mobile responsive.
  • GoDaddy Website Builder v7 is not mobile responsive but provides a mobile version of your website for their Business & Business Plus plans. You must turn on this feature.
  • WordPress.com mobile responsiveness will depend on the theme that is used. Some themes are mobile responsive. If yours is not, WordPress.com will automatically serve the user a mobile version of your website.
  • Self Hosted WordPress mobile responsiveness will depend on the theme that is used. Many modern WordPress themes are mobile responsive. You can also add a mobile version using the WP Touch Mobile Plugin which works with any theme.
  • Using another website provider? Try contacting their customer service to see what they have available to help you make your site mobile responsive.

Help! My Site’s Not Mobile Responsive

Remember that Google’s algorithm update only affects mobile search results. So if your site isn’t mobile responsive, it may not show up as high when someone is searching on a mobile device. Your ranking for people searching on desktops/laptops won’t be affected.

Take incremental steps to make your site mobile responsive and your rankings will improve on mobile devices.

Mobile-friendly is only one of hundreds of Google ranking signals. If you provide quality content and a well coded website, Google will continue to rank your website well.

Resources

http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/chapter-one-a-portrait-of-smartphone-ownership/

http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Blog/Why-Are-Millennials-So-Mobile

Thanks to Emily Fontes and Katie Rohs for technical support on this post.

Childbirth Education, Science & Sensibility, Series: Building Your Birth Business , , , , , , , , , ,

World Health Organization: Provide Cesareans for Women in Need, Don’t Focus on Specific Rate

April 21st, 2015 by avatar
© Patti Ramos Photography

© Patti Ramos Photography

As we have mentioned earlier this month, when Jen Kamel discussed placenta accreta as a downstream risk factor of the increasing cesarean rate, April is Cesarean Awareness Month and the World Health Organization (WHO) has come out with a new statement (WHO Statement on Caesarean Section Rates) that discourages identifying a “cesarean target rate” but rather encourages the use of cesarean surgery worldwide only when appropriate to protect the health of mother and baby. The goal should be that every cesarean performed is done out of true medical necessity and the decision to do so should be based on individual circumstances evaluated at the time for each mother/baby dyad.

Since 1985,  it has been stated that a safe and appropriate cesarean target rate was between 10-15%.  It was believed that if the cesarean rate exceeded that target rate, the mortality and morbidity for both mothers and babies would rise as a result of potentially unnecessary surgeries being performed.  Everyone recognizes that a cesarean birth can save the life of a mother and/or a baby.  But it needs to be acknowledged that there are no benefits to mothers and babies when a cesarean is done when it is not required.  WHO has decided to revisit the decades old suggested target rate as the number of cesarean surgeries being performed are increasing all around the world.  In the USA, in 2013, 1,284,339 cesarean surgeries were performed.  32.7% of all babies born in the USA that year were delivered by surgery.

There are both short term and long term risks to mothers, babies and future pregnancies every time a cesarean is performed.  These risks are even more elevated in areas where women have limited access to appropriate obstetrical care.

The WHO strived to identify an ideal cesarean rate for each country or population as well as a worldwide country level analysis.  The cesarean rate at the population level is determined by two items – 1) the level of access to cesareans and 2) the use of the intervention, both appropriate and inappropriately. Governments and agencies can use this information to allocate funding and resources.  Cesareans are costly to perform and doing more than necessary puts undue financial hardship on resources that may already be stretched too thin in many places around the world.

After conducting a systematic review – the team tasked with determining the population based cesarean rate determined that indeed, when cesareans are performed up to a rate of approximately 10-15%, maternal, neonatal and infant mortality and morbidity is reduced.  When the cesarean rate starts to increase above this level, mortality rates are not improved. When socioeconomic factors were included in the analysis, the relationship between lower mortality rates and an increasing cesarean rate disappeared.  In locations where cesarean rates were below 10%, as the rate increased, there was a decrease in mortality in both mothers and babies.  When the rate was between 10-30%, they did not see a continued decrease in mother or newborn mortality rates. The team also acknowledged that once the cesarean rate increased to 30% or above, the link between newborn and maternal mortality becomes difficult to assess.

In countries that struggle with resources, staffing and access to care, the common complications of surgery, such as infection, make cesarean surgery even more complicated and even dangerous for those women who give birth this way.

The team also struggled with analyzing the morbidity rate due to the lack of available data.  They did acknowledge that while the social and psychological impact of cesarean sections were not analyzed, potential impacts could be found in the maternal–infant relationship, women’s psychological health, women’s ability to successfully initiate breastfeeding and pediatric outcomes.  More research is needed.

WHO Cesarean Rate Conclusions

© WHO

 

The WHO team also felt it is important to establish, recognize and apply a universal classification system for cesareans that can be applied at the hospital level and allow comparisons to take place between different facilities and the unique populations that they serve. Once established, rates and systems could be compared between geographic regions, countries, different facilities and on a global level and the data analyzed effectively to help identify where change can be effective at reducing poor outcomes.

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© WHO – click image for full size version

After reviewing the different classification systems currently available, they determined that universal use of the Robson classification would best meet the needs of both international and local analysis.  The Robson classification system is named after Dr. Michael Robson, who in 2001 developed this system to classify women based on their obstetric characteristics for the purpose of research analysis.  This allows for comparisons to be made regarding cesarean section rates with few confounding factors.  Every woman will be clearly classified into one of the ten known groups when admitted for delivery. The WHO team states that the Robson classification system “is simple, robust, reproducible, clinically relevant, and prospective.”

The WHO team believes that using the Robson classification will aid in data analysis on many levels and the information obtained from these analyses be public information.  This information can be used to help facilities to optimize the use of cesarean section in the specific groups that will benefit from intervention.  It will also help determine the effectiveness of different strategies that are currently being used to reduce this intervention when not necessary.

Cesarean sections can be a life-saving tool under certain circumstances.  When cesareans are performed when not medically necessary, there are both long term and short term risks to both mothers and babies, including increased mortality and morbidity and risks to future pregnancies.  This becomes especially significant in areas of low resources and scare obstetric care.  Better data is needed to help reduce the cesarean rate in locations where it is unnecessarily high and to be able to direct resources where they are needed and can improve outcomes.  The World Health Organization hopes that this data becomes available so that more accurate research can be conducted and the reduction in mortality and morbidity for mothers and babies can be reduced.

Are you sharing with your classes, clients and families the importance of having a cesarean only when medically necessary?  While April may be Cesarean Awareness Month, we need to be diligent all year long to prevent cesareans that are not needed.

Lamaze International has created and made available three infographics that can help families learn more about cesareans and VBACs.

Screenshot 2015-04-20 19.52.53

What’s the Deal with Cesareans?

Avoiding the First Cesarean

VBAC, Yes, It’s an Option! (NEW!)

You can download and print these and other Lamaze International infographics from this page here.

Share what you are doing to honor Cesarean Awareness Month in your professional practice in our comments section below.

 

 

 

Babies, Cesarean Birth, Childbirth Education, Maternal Mortality, Maternal Mortality Rate, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Medical Interventions, Newborns, Research, Systematic Review , , , , , ,

Exclusive Q&A with Rebecca Dekker – What Does the Evidence Say about Induction for Going Past your Due Date?

April 15th, 2015 by avatar

What does the evidence say about dueToday on Evidence Based Birth, occasional contributor Rebecca Dekker, Phd, RN, APRN, provides a comprehensive research review –  Induction for Going Past your Due Date: What does the Evidence Say?  I had an opportunity to preview the article and ask Rebecca some questions about her most recent project on due dates. I would like to share our conversation here on Science & Sensibility with all of you. Rebecca’s website has become a very useful tool for both professionals and consumers to read about current best practice.Consumers can gather information on the common issues that they maybe dealing with during their pregnancies. Professionals can find resources and information to share with students and clients.  How do you cover the topic of inductions at term for due date?  After reading today’s S&S post and Rebecca’s research post, do you think you might share additional information or change what you discuss?  Let us know in the comments section.- Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility.

Note: if the Evidence Based Birth post is not up yet, try again in a bit, it should be momentarily.

Sharon Muza: Why did you decide to tackle the topic of due dates as your next research project and blog post?

Rebecca Dekker: Last year, I polled my audience as to what they would like me to write about next. They overwhelmingly said that they wanted an Evidence Based Birth article about Advanced Maternal Age (AMA), or pregnancy over the age of 35. As I started reviewing the research on AMA, it became abundantly clear to me that I had to first publish an article all about the evidence on due dates. This article on induction for due dates creates a solid foundation on which my readers can learn about induction versus waiting for spontaneous labor in pregnant women who are over the age of 35.

SM: When you started to dig into the research, were there any findings that surprised you, or that you didn’t expect?

RD: There were two topics that I really had to dig into in order to thoroughly understand.

The first is the topic on stillbirth rates. I began to understand that it’s really important to know which mathematical formula researchers used to calculate stillbirth rates by gestational age. It was interesting to read through the old research studies and letters to the editors where researchers argued about which math formulas were best. In the end, I had to draw up diagrams of the different formulas (you can see those diagrams in the article) for the formulas to make sense in my head, and once I did, the issue made perfect sense!

Before 1987 (and even after 1987, in some cases) researchers really DID use the wrong formulas, and it’s kind of funny to think that for so many years, they used the wrong math! In general, I thought the research studies on stillbirth rates by gestational age were really interesting…it raised questions for me that I couldn’t answer, like why are the stillbirth rates so different at different times and in different countries? Also, it was really clear from the research that stillbirth rates are drastically different depending on whether you are looking at samples that include or don’t include babies who are growth-restricted.

The other big breakthrough or “ah ha” moment I had was when I finally realized the true meaning of the Hannah (1992) Post-Term study. There was such a huge paradox in their findings… why did they find that the expectant management group had HIGHER Cesarean rates, when clinicians instinctively know that inductions have higher Cesarean rates compared to spontaneous labor? Since all of the meta-analyses rely heavily on the Hannah study, I knew I needed to figure this problem out.

There are a couple different theories in the literature as to why there were higher C-section rates in the expectant management group in Hannah’s study. One theory is that the induction group had Prostaglandins to ripen the cervix, while the expectant management group did not. However, in a secondary data analysis published by Hannah et al. in 1996, they found that this probably played just a minor role.

Another theory is that as women go further along in their pregnancy, physicians get more nervous about the risk of stillbirth, and so they may be quicker to recommend a Cesarean in a woman who is past 42 or 43 weeks, compared to one who is just at 41 weeks. This theory has been proposed by several different researchers in the literature, and there is probably some merit to it.

But in the end, I found out exactly why the C-section rates are higher in the expectant management group in the Hannah Post Term study (and thus in every meta-analysis that has ever been done on this topic). Don’t you want to know why? I finally found the evidence in Hannah’s 1996 article called “Putting the merits of a policy of induction of labor into perspective.” The data that I was looking for were not in the original Hannah study… they were in this commentary that was published several years later.

dekker headshotThe reason that Cesarean rates were higher in the expectant management group in the Hannah study is because the women who were randomly assigned to wait for spontaneous labor, but actually ended up with inductions, had Cesarean rates that were nearly double of those among women who had spontaneous labor. Some of these inductions were medically indicated, and some of them were requested by the mother. In any case, this explains the paradox. It’s not spontaneous labor that leads to higher Cesarean rates with expectant management… the higher Cesarean rates come from women who wait for spontaneous labor but end up having inductions instead. 

So the good news is that if you choose “expectant management” at 41-42 weeks (which is a term that I really dislike, because it implies that you’re “managing” women, but I digress), your chances of a Cesarean are pretty low if you go into spontaneous labor. But if you end up being one of the women who waits and then later on chooses to have an induction, or ends up with a medically indicated induction, then your chances of a Cesarean are much higher than if you had just had an elective induction at 41 weeks.

SM: What information do you recommend that childbirth educators share to help families make informed decisions about inductions and actions to take as a due date comes and then even goes, and they are still pregnant.

RD: First of all, I think it’s important for all of us to dispel the myth of the 40 week due date. There really is no such thing as a due date. There is a range of time in which most women will go into labor on their own. About half of women will go into labor by 40 weeks and 5 days if you’re a first-time mom (or 40 weeks and 3 days if you’ve given birth before), and the other half will go into labor after that.

The other thing that it is important for childbirth educators to do is to encourage families—early in pregnancy—to talk with their health care provider about when they recommend induction, and why.

There are some health care providers who believe strongly that induction at 39, 40, 41, or 42 weeks reduces the risk of stillbirth and other poor outcomes. There are parents who have the same preference. Then there are other health care providers who believe strongly that induction for going past your due date is a bad thing, and shouldn’t be attempted unless there are clear medical reasons for the induction. And there are parents who will tend to share that same preference. Either way, parents need accurate information about the benefits and risks of waiting versus elective induction at 41-42 weeks—because both are valid options.

But it’s probably best to avoid a mismatch between parents and providers. If parents believes strongly that they want to wait for spontaneous labor, and they understand the risks, but they have a care provider who believes strongly in elective induction at 41 weeks, then they will run into problems when they reach 41 or 42 weeks and their care provider disagrees with their decision.

Clearly, there are benefits to experiencing spontaneous labor and avoiding unnecessary interventions. But at the same time there is a rise in the relative risk of stillbirth starting at about 39 weeks, depending on which study you are looking at. However, the overall risk is still low up until 42 weeks. At 42 weeks, the risk of stillbirth rises to about 1 in 1,000 in babies who are not growth-restricted. The risk may be higher in some women who have additional risk factors for stillbirth. Women who experience post-term pregnancy (past 42 weeks) are more likely to experience infections and Cesareans, and their infants are more likely to experience meconium aspiration syndrome, NICU admissions, and low Apgar scores.

SM: Would you recommend that families have conversations about how their due date is being calculated, at the first prenatal with their health care providers. What should that conversation include?

RD: I would recommend asking these questions:

  • What is the estimated date range that I might expect to give birth—not based on Naegele’s rule, but based on more current research about the average length of a pregnancy?
  • Did you use my Last Menstrual Period or an early ultrasound to determine my baby’s gestational age?
  • Has my due date been changed in my chart at any point in my pregnancy? If so, why?

SM: The concept of being “overdue” if still pregnant at the due date is firmly ingrained in our culture. What do you think needs to happen both socially and practically to change the way we think about the “due date?”

RD: We need to start telling everyone, “There is no such thing as a due date.” To help women deal with the social pressure they may experience at the end of pregnancy, I’ve created several Facebook profile photos that they can use as their Facebook profile when they get close to their traditional “due date.” To download those photos, visit www.evidendebasedbirth.com/duedates

SM: How available and widely used are first trimester ultrasounds? If first trimester ultrasounds were done as the standard of care in all pregnancies, would it result in more accurate due dates and better outcomes? Do you think there should be a shift to that method of EDD estimation?

RD: I think the option of having a first trimester ultrasound definitely needs to be part of the conversation between a woman and her care provider, especially because it has implications for the number of women who will be induced for “post-term.” I could not find any data on the percentage of women who have an ultrasound before 20 weeks, but in my geographic area it seems to be nearly 100%, anecdotally.

If your estimated due date is based on your LMP, you have a 10% chance of reaching the post-term period, but if it’s based on an early ultrasound, you only have a 3% chance of reaching 42 weeks.

One strange thing that I noted is that ACOG still prefers the LMP date over an early ultrasound date. They have specific guidelines in their practice bulletin about when you need to switch from the LMP date to an ultrasound date, but the default date is still the LMP. I found that rather odd, since research is very clear that ultrasound data is more accurate than the LMP, for a host of reasons!

Before I published the due dates article, I reached out to Tara Elrod, a Certified Direct Entry Midwife in Alaska, to get her expert feedback as a home birth midwife. She raised an excellent point:

“It is of significant interest to me as a licensed midwife practicing solely in the Out-of-Hospital setting that ultrasounds done in early pregnancy are more accurate than using LMP. If early ultrasound dating was achieved, it’s thought that this would ultimately equate to less women being induced for post-term pregnancy. This is significant to midwives such as myself due to the scope-of-care regulation of not providing care beyond 42 weeks. While an initial- and perhaps arguably by some ‘elective’ ultrasound-  may not be a popular choice in the midwife clientele population, a thoughtful risk versus benefit consideration should occur, as to assess the circumstance of “risking out” of care for suspected post-dates. [In my licensing state, my scope of care is limited to 37+0 weeks to 42+0 weeks, with the occasional patient reaching 42 weeks and therefore subsequently “risking out,” necessitating a transfer of care.]” ~Tara Elrod, CDM

SM: What do you think the economic cost of inductions for due dates is? The social costs? What benefits might we see if we relied on a better system for determining due dates and when to take action based on being postdates?

RD: There are economic costs to both elective inductions and waiting for labor to start on its own. The Hannah Post-Term trial investigators actually published a paper that looked at the cost effectiveness of their intervention, and they found that induction was cheaper than expectant management. This was primarily because with expectant management, there were extra costs related to fetal monitoring (non stress tests, amniotic fluid measurements, etc.) and the increased number of Cesareans in the expectant management group.

But there are many unanswered questions about the cost-effectiveness of elective induction of labor versus waiting for labor to begin (with fetal monitoring), so I’m afraid I can’t make any definitive statements or projections about the economic and social costs of elective inductions. Here is a study that may be of interest to some with further information on this topic.

I do know that in a healthy, low-risk population, birth centers in the National Birth Center Study II provided excellent care at a very low cost with women who had spontaneous births all the way up to 42 weeks. I would love to see researchers analyze maternal and neonatal outcomes in women stratified by gestational age in the Perinatal Data Registry with the American Association of Birth Centers.

 SM: I very much look forward to all your research posts and appreciate the work  and effort you put into doing them. What is on your radar for your next piece?

RD: The next piece will be Advanced Maternal Age!! After that, I will probably be polling my audience to see what they want, but I’m interested in tackling some topics related to pain control (epidurals and nitrous oxide) or maybe episiotomies.

SM: Is there anything else that you want to share about this post or other topics?

RD: No, I would just like to give a big thank you to everyone who helped in some way or another on this article!! There was a great interdisciplinary team who helped ensure that the due dates article passed scrutiny—we had an obstetrician, family physician, nurse midwife, several PhD-prepared researchers, and a certified direct entry midwife all provide expert review before the article was published. I am so thankful to all of them.

References

Hannah, M. E., C. Huh, et al. (1996). “Postterm pregnancy: putting the merits of a policy of induction of labor into perspective.” Birth 23(1): 13-19.

Hannah, M. E., W. J. Hannah, et al. (1992). “Induction of labor as compared with serial antenatal monitoring in post-term pregnancy. A randomized controlled trial. The Canadian Multicenter Post-term Pregnancy Trial Group.” N Engl J Med 326(24): 1587-1592.

 

 

 

Cesarean Birth, Childbirth Education, Evidence Based Medicine, informed Consent, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, New Research, Research , , , , ,

Because… A Poem Honoring Cesarean Awareness Month

April 9th, 2015 by avatar

CAM 2015 GBWCGiving Birth with Confidence is the sister blog to Science & Sensibility, Lamaze International and is geared for parents and new families.  Cara Terreri, ( you may remember Cara, we followed her journey to becoming an LCCE) has been the Community Manager there since the blog was first established in 2008.  I always point the families in my classes to Giving Birth with Confidence because I know that they will find evidence based information along with great inspiration to push for a safe and healthy birth.

Cara recently wrote and published a poem on Giving Birth With Confidence to commemorate Cesarean Awareness Month (April), and it really spoke to me.  Since April is also National Poetry Month, I wanted to share her poem with you, in hopes that you might pass on and share with the families you work with.  Because 1 in 3 is too many.

Because…

1 in 3 is too many

Recovery is hard

My birth was still a birth

I want to have a VBAC

My scar still hurts

I was separated from my baby

My doula supported me in the OR

I didn’t have a choice

I got to experience skin to skin with my baby right away

I made the choice this time

I wish I would have known

I feel cheated

My doctor never told me this could happen

It’s going to be OK

My sister said this was easier anyway

My midwife made the right decision to transfer to the hospital

Friends told me at least I had a healthy baby

I have postpartum depression

It was the best decision for my birth

My husband has scars too

I’m embarrassed

My doula wasn’t allowed back into the OR

I failed the one thing I’m supposed to be able to do as a woman

My mom had one too; I guess it was meant to happen

I know my doctor helped me make the best decision

I want more for my daughter

I am a source of courage and support for others who have gone before me and those who will go after me

I did the best that I could with the knowledge I had at the time

I’m doing better now

My baby is beautiful

My body is strong

I am resilient

My birth matters

By Cara Terreri

cara headshot

 

Cesarean Birth, Childbirth Education, Depression, Giving Birth with Confidence, Guest Posts, Infant Attachment, Newborns , , , , , ,

Advocacy: Lamaze International Leaders on Capitol Hill

April 7th, 2015 by avatar

By John Richardson, Director, Government Relations, Lamaze International

I am proud of being both a member of Lamaze International and a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator for many reasons.  Today’s post by John Richardson, Lamaze International’s Director of Government Relations is just one reason why I am happy to pay my membership dues and be a part of the Lamaze organization.  Lamaze is actively working in both the private sector and with public/governmental leaders to help every family to have access to the resources to have a safe and healthy birth.  Today on the blog, we share about how our Board of Directors met with Congressmen and Congresswomen to share the importance of an evidence based childbirth education class being available to all families.  My certifying organization works hard for me and the families I teach every day.  – Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.

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Lamaze BoD on Capitol Hill, 2015

Advocacy is a foundational element of the Lamaze International mission to advance safe and healthy pregnancy, birth and early parenting through evidence-based education and advocacy. Assisting women and their families to make informed decisions for childbearing and acting as an advocate to promote, support, and protect safe and healthy birth are two core competencies of a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator.

Advocacy comes in many different forms. The new Lamaze Strategic Framework specifically calls for taking advocacy efforts to the next level, focusing on government and legislative advocacy — leveraging strategic partnerships to advocate for perinatal/childbirth education coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and partnering with insurance companies, including the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), to become part of the “bundled care” system. (Bundled care payment programs refer to the concept of grouping together the multiple services associated with a certain health “episode” versus the current fee for service system where each service associated with a condition is charged separately, and is one of the ACA’s many attempts to incentivize health care providers to be more cost efficient.)

BoD President Robin Elise Weiss and BOD Christine Morton

BoD President Robin Elise Weiss and BOD Christine Morton

Over the years, Lamaze has been involved in a variety of coalition and advocacy efforts related to improving access to high-quality maternity care that includes evidence based childbirth education by qualified educators and the promotion of breastfeeding within the health care industry. These efforts will continue with Lamaze taking its message directly to Capitol Hill to have a stronger voice with federal policymakers on behalf of the organization, its members, and the women and families that Lamaze serves. We want to let Congress know that Lamaze International provides gold standard childbirth education which can play an important role in promoting healthier outcomes for mother and baby and reducing healthcare costs and burdens on the healthcare system.

What does advocacy look like?

Advocacy campaigns at the federal level in the United States are typically a set of actions targeted to create support for a specific policy or proposal. The goals of an advocacy campaign may include drafting and passing a new law, drafting and passing amendments to existing laws, commenting on regulation, or influencing public perception and awareness of a particular issue.

Why is advocacy important for Lamaze?

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Board member Alice Turner

The delivery of health care is one of the most regulated industries in the United States. State and federal regulations often define whether services are covered by insurance, which practitioners are allowed to deliver services, the manner in which services are delivered, and how much individual practitioners and health care organizations are reimbursed. Naturally, there are a lot of people and organizations invested in steering and influencing these policies. There are literally thousands of issues and groups vying for policymakers’ attention. For Lamaze, it is critical to engage directly in advocacy activities so that policymakers become aware of the issues that are important to our organization and make them priorities.

There have been several recent successful advocacy initiatives to improve care for pregnant and postpartum women. For example, Lamaze has worked in collaboration with other organizations and lawmakers to improve breastfeeding services under the Affordable Care Act. As a result, there are several benefits now available to women who receive coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplaces (exchanges) and private non-grandfathered plans. Benefits such as lactation support and counseling by trained professionals are now covered without co-pay or co-insurance. Breast pumps are also covered at no charge and most employers must provide access to clean and private locations to pump for women who are hourly employees.

These victories are impressive and it is important to note that they did not occur in a vacuum. Advocates flooded the halls of Congress for years to ensure that policymakers appreciated the importance of breastfeeding. A key component of the success of these advocacy efforts was that they were based on research, focused on higher quality health outcomes, and provided fiscal benefits to the health care system and the federal government.

The Lamaze Board of Directors’ “Hill Day”

cbe graphicBearing all this in mind and in conjunction with their in-person meeting in Washington, DC, members of the Lamaze Board of Directors took to Capitol Hill on March 19, 2015 to meet with their Representatives and Senators about the excellent childbirth education that Lamaze provides and its potential to reduce costs and improve outcomes. The members of the Board met with a total of 23 Congressional offices, the majority of whom sit on committees with jurisdiction over health policy.

Our advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill centered on the following core messages:

  1. Promoting greater utilization of evidence-based childbirth education is a critical element in closing quality outcomes gaps and reducing unnecessary costs. In the face of high rates of cesarean sections, early inductions, and maternal/infant mortality, there is an increasing imperative for women to be informed and in charge of their maternity care to improve birth outcomes.

Maternal or neonatal hospital stays make up the greatest proportion of hospitalizations among infants, younger adults and patients covered by private insurance and Medicaid, which is why improvements in care are a major opportunity to reduce overall healthcare spending. Increasing quality outcomes by reducing the rates of unnecessary interventions, such as early induction of labor and cesarean section, are critical to reduce healthcare spending, particularly with Medicaid.

  1. The ACA has provided an opportunity for millions of uninsured Americans to access health care coverage through the creation of the exchanges. For those that do not enroll in a plan during the “open” enrollment period, there are qualifying “life events” that trigger special enrollment periods. One of those life events is when a woman gives birth. After the birth, the mother can sign herself and her infant up for coverage.

Lamaze believes, along with many others, that pregnancy, rather than birth, should be the life event that triggers the special enrollment period. Recently, 37 Senators and 55 Representatives sent a letter to U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell  requesting this change. It appears Secretary Burwell can make this change administratively, as it does not require an act of Congress. Lamaze will join a chorus of other organizations that are making this request directly to the Secretary. Lamaze will also emphasize the importance of ensuring that ACA and state Medicaid plans include childbirth education as a covered service under maternity care benefits.

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Hill Day meetings

While meeting and communicating with legislators and staff on Capitol Hill may seem intimidating, it is actually very easy. Legislators are elected (and re-elected) by their constituents (you) so they have an obligation to listen to their constituents (you). That is a very important dynamic to remember. They are naturally inclined to help address the issues raised by their constituents.

However, advocates should always be well-prepared, a task that proved to be almost second nature for the Lamaze Board members as they met with Congressional offices. As experts in the field and natural educators, Lamaze leadership did a fantastic job representing the views of childbirth educators and establishing a rapport with the officials and staffers they met – the most important accomplishment of any first meeting on Capitol Hill.

Check out all the pictures of our Board of Directors on the “Hill” last month here.

Getting Involved

If you want to get involved and contact or meet with Congressional offices in your state, the most important action is to convey who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why it is important. Then, continue a dialogue of how specific policies might be improved for safer, higher quality, lower cost birth outcomes. In preparation for the first Lamaze “Hill Day,” several key documents were developed, including a policy paper and supporting documents to convey Lamaze’s core message in meetings with Congressional offices. By following this link, you can access and use these documents for advocacy efforts with your state’s representatives and in your local communities with insurers, health care providers, and hospitals.

Providing Lamaze’s unique perspective on the state and national level is extremely important and we can only be successful with the help of our members and supporters. In the coming months, we will provide a webinar on how to become an effective advocate and what Lamaze is doing to have an impact on access to high-quality childbirth education. Stay tuned!  If you are already an advocate in your community, on the county or state level or even nationally, share what you are doing to help families receive good care and improve outcomes in our comments section.

About John Richardson

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© John Richardson

John Richardson joined SmithBucklin, Lamaze International’s management company, in 2001 as Director of Government Relations, Healthcare Practice Group. He guides the policy efforts of healthcare organizations whose members include healthcare administrators; allied health professionals; physicians and hospitals. His experience provides his clients with a deep understanding of policy and politics and their effects on the healthcare system.

John lobbies Congress and government agencies at the federal level and also develops strategy for state lobbying efforts. He also has experience pursuing client objectives such as the development of practice guidelines, CPT codes, evidence based research, and technologies that promote efficiencies within healthcare administration.

Prior to joining SmithBucklin, John served as an Associate to the House Committee on Appropriations for a former member of the committee. Preceding his work of 5 years on the Hill, John acquired extensive political and grassroots experience working as a campaign aide to congressional and presidential campaigns.

A New Hampshire native, he graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I, and currently resides in Bowie, MD with his wife Kristin and sons Garrett and Holden.

 

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