The Role of State Maternal and Child Health Programs in the Issue of Newborn Discharge


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Abstract

ObjectivesSince dramatically shortened newborn hospitalization has shifted the focus of care from the hospital, a central policy question has become how to assure a system of care that extends into the home and community. The objective of this study was to examine the role of the state Maternal and Child Health Title V programs in the assessment of the issue of newborn discharge, the development of policies, and the assurance of appropriate care.MethodThe director or their designee in all 50 states and the District of Columbia participated in a structured telephone interview lasting 30–60 minutes.ResultsTwenty-eight states reported new or previously implemented mandates for 48 hours of private insurance coverage for postpartum hospitalization. Only 6 states reported mandates concerning private insurance coverage of inpatient services, but 20 states reported mandates for postdischarge services. In the assessment function, only 18 maternal and child health (MCH) programs reported that they had undertaken specific studies on the effects of discharge timing in their states. In policy development, 18 of the 51 respondents reported that the MCH program initiated newborn discharge discussions, 23 reported that the agency participated in discussions, and 10 indicated that they did not participate. In assurance, 29 programs reported that they had taken action to provide technical assistance to local communities in developing follow-up systems. The relationship between the performance of core functions and the development of specific discharge policies in the state was minimal.ConclusionsThe MCH programs appear to have played varied, but often limited, roles in the development of discharge policies. It is essential for MCH programs to engage actively in the policy-making process. But in the political environment surrounding newborn discharge policy, where laws and regulations consistent with the well-being of infants and mothers were being enacted, the limited MCH program roles may have been appropriate. Arguing against this conclusion, however, is that only 15 programs believed they had been effective and only 19 were satisfied with the discharge policies in their states, which suggests that a more proactive role may be necessary.

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