Bill Highlight: H.R. 4201August 28, 2019
By Zachary Tashman
In August, Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) introduced the Baby Box and Maternal Assistance Act (H.R.4201), which aims to remedy high rates of infant mortality in the United States. This legislation would create a grant program that would provide funding for newborn care training to expecting parents, the services of certified Doulas or Midwives, as well as the distribution of a “Baby Box”.
A “Baby Box” is a package for expecting parents with a collection of baby products and educational materials. The box itself is also designed to serve as a sturdy and mobile sleeping space for an infant’s first months of life. Baby Boxes originated in Finland, where they are credited with helping achieve one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
Impact on Youth and Families
The Center for Disease Control estimates that more than a quarter of 3,600 sudden unexplained infant deaths (SUID) in 2017 were directly attributed to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. A study conducted by the New Jersey Child Fatality Review Board estimated that 93% of SUID’s in their state were directly related to sleep environments. With the United States suffering from one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world, particularly among children of color, organizations such as Baby Box Co. have already partnered with state and local governments to provide baby box services to low-income areas. As of 2019, baby box programs have been adopted in New Jersey and Ohio, and have been implemented at the local level in counties across the country.
The legislation would also provide funding for the training and recruitment of Doulas from diverse backgrounds. Doulas are specialists who provide emotional, physical, and educational support to mothers throughout pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the postpartum period. These maternity support professionals are in highest demand by minority women going through pregnancy. According to one study published by the National Institute of Health, of the nearly 50% of black women who expressed interest in having a Doula, fewer than 10% reported having access to such services. Rep. Veasey has cited this legislation as one element in correcting the racial disparity in access to maternity support professionals in the United States.
Since its introduction, the Baby Box and Maternal Assistance Act has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The National Assembly supports this bill because it would increase the availability of resources for all parents and children and improve their health and well-being. To stay updated on the progress of H.R. 4201, or to contact your member of Congress, check out PolicySource, the National Assembly’s comprehensive database of federal legislation that impacts the human service sector.