Department of Health officials visited Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital as the last stop on a statewide tour of all the children’s hospitals in Pennsylvania. The six-stop tour highlighted the importance of keeping the commonwealth’s moms and kids healthy.
Providing for the health and well-being of our children and new mothers is essential for their growth and development,” Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Whether we are discussing maternal and child health as it relates to the opioid crisis or the latest innovations in providing health care or combating childhood obesity, we must make sure we are working to provide for our children. It is necessary that we focus on a child’s needs from the time they are born throughout their school-age years.”
At each stop on the tour, health care providers and executives stressed the work being done on the local, regional and state level to assist babies born dependent to opioids. Since the beginning of 2018, more than 2,700 infants have been born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. Healthcare providers from across the state have met to discuss best practices and highlight how to care for these babies who have been exposed to opioids before birth.
Another focus that was highlighted throughout the tour was the importance of community health and the social determinants of health. Social determinants can include the availability of housing, income level, opportunities for education and employment, availability of fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, public transportation, public safety, culture and many others. All of the children’s hospitals are working outside of their walls to care for all Pennsylvanians, especially in the communities they serve.
“Addressing the whole needs of a child and their family is a priority of the Governor’s Task Force,” Dr. Levine said. “This includes ensuring affordable health care is available to everyone, regardless of their income or background. We must work to reduce any barriers that exist to getting infants, toddlers, children and their caregivers the help and support they need to live a healthy, successful life.”
Those who participated in the discussion with Dr. Levine also highlighted the important link between healthy moms and healthy kids. Hospitals are working to make sure that the needs of both the mother and the child are met, particularly for children who are born with medical conditions or concerns. These may include providing separate, private rooms for families, using technology to increase access to view how the child is doing, and working to center new construction or renovations around the family unit.