Public health and Foundational Public Health Services (FPHS) has gotten a lot of attention this session in part to the measles outbreak in our state. A core tenant of FPHS work is to have state funding and where applicable state and local fees cover FPHS work. This is the work of this session; formalize the FPHS framework into statute and secure state funding for FPHS. This enables the local revenue often used to pay for these services to be invested in other public health programs. So, what about the other services that health departments provide that aren’t defined as FPHS?
These services are referred to as Additional Important Services (AIS). AIS are just as vital as FPHS for healthy and safe communities and families. A key difference is that AIS reflect the local contexts in which they are implemented. Because they can change from county to county (or city to city) WSALPHO and WSAC believe that they should be funded by state or federal grants and local revenue.
A great example of a valuable AIS are home visiting programs. These programs are designed to improve maternal and child health, particularly infant mortality and childhood trauma. Programs are also tailored to provide parenting skills, well baby check-ups, link families to other programs and increase family health. Home visiting is one of the best ways to meet the needs and change the trajectory of Washington’s most vulnerable children and families.
Research has shown that these programs improve birth outcomes like birth weight and lower infant and maternal mortality. They also improve parent-child relationship, reducing incidences of child abuse and neglect. Children with developmental delays are also connected to services earlier reducing future healthcare costs, and reports also show children have increased preschool and kindergarten readiness.
A home visiting program such as the Nurse-Family Partnership (the most common program in Washington) or Help me Grow provide in-person visits by a public health nurse, health educator, or community health worker to families. Families are referred to participate in the program and once they’ve agreed to services, work closely with health department staff over several months or even years. Yet, the need for these programs is far greater than current state and local funding.
HB 1771/SB 5683 establishes the welcome to Washington baby act to create family supports through universal home visiting programs and a statewide family linkage program for resources and referrals. This bill would increase access to home visiting programs across Washington and with appropriation, would provide funding for local program expansion so that this additional important public health service continues to create healthy Washingtonians.