On Thursday, April 30, students from the class on “Health Systems: Services, Programs, and Policies for Women, Children, and Families” (CHSC-511) presented posters on a state health system. The Maternal and Child Health Systems class is taught every spring by Karen VanLandeghem, Adjunct Professor and Senior Program Director at the National Academy for State Health Policy.
The Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, a non-profit donor human milk bank, was established in January 2011 with the mission to provide pasteurized donor human milk to premature and low-birth-weight babies in the Wisconsin and Illinois region. Our most fragile babies’ lives rely on human milk. Their sensitive and underdeveloped digestive systems have special feeding needs in which formula feeding may do more harm than good. Infant formula lacks the anti-infective and anti-inflammatory ingredients found in natural human milk that can help prevent intestinal conditions such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and other long-term health complications that are prevalent in premature babies. Several studies have shown that infants that are born premature who receive even partial human milk feedings leave the hospital earlier and are less likely to develop NEC. Donating breast milk gives lactating mothers an opportunity to use their excess milk supply to save a premature infant’s life, and is also seen as a bereavement strategy for grieving mothers who recently lost their infant.
Jennifer Anderson, a current UIC Maternal and Child Health (MCH) student and Executive Director of the organization, has been growing and managing the extensive network of milk bank supporters and donor milk drop-off centers, or depots, in Wisconsin and Illinois. The organization’s outreach efforts have focused on raising awareness among physicians, nurses, and public health professionals, about ways to incorporate pasteurized donor milk as a standard feeding practice in hospital neonatal intensive care units.
In January 2014, a group of UIC MCH classmates formed the Associate Board of the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes with the goal of increasing awareness among young professionals and garnering support with regard to the importance of human milk access. Since its inception, the Associate Board has hosted a screening of the documentary “Donor Milk” to bring awareness of the issue, held several fundraising events, and assisted with planning the Mother’s Milk Bank 2014 Race to Save Tiny Lives 5K Run/Walk. The funds raised have directly contributed to opening the milk processing facility in Northern Illinois.
This year, the Associate Board is actively pursuing the establishment of additional milk depots in order to make the donation process easier for mothers living within the city of Chicago. Members are also excited to be assisting with the Inaugural Human Milk Banking Conference, hosted by the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, taking place in November 2015 at the NIU Hoffman Estates Conference Center.
We are always seeking new members who are dedicated to providing human milk to the most vulnerable infants in our region. To stay updated on our meetings and events, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Written by Bree Medvedev, MPH in MCH Candidate, and Tamara Kozyckyj, MPH and Maternal and Child Health Program Alum
According to the CDC, while rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality have been decreasing1, in 2011, over 12,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and over 4,000 lost their lives2. Cervical cancer is preventable by taking steps to avoid contracting the human papillomavirus (HPV) and receiving the recommended screenings at the right times.
The HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer3. The CDC estimates that HPV causes approximately 10,400 new cases of cervical cancer each year in the United States4. Luckily, we can protect our cervical health and prevent contracting HPV by taking the following steps.
1. Get the Pap test (but not too often)!
In 2012, ACOG changed their guidelines regarding Pap tests, now recommending that women receive the test beginning at age 215. From the ages of 21-29, women are advised to receive annual women’s wellness exams, but should only get Pap smears every three years. Women who are 30-65 years old should continue to get Pap tests every three years, or every five years when they receive both the HPV screening test and a Pap smear. After 65 years of age, women who have been “adequately screened” are recommended to stop getting Pap tests6.
2. Get the HPV Vaccine.
Boys and girls should get the three doses of HPV vaccine at 11 or 12 years of age7. Women who have not been vaccinated are able to receive the HPV vaccine until age 26, and men until age 21. Men who test positive for HIV, and gay and bisexual men are also advised to get the vaccine until age 267.
3. Stay Informed and Inform a Friend.
Guidelines about how often and when to begin receiving screenings change. Stay informed about recommended Pap test schedules and tell your friends and family. If you are under 26 and haven’t been vaccinated, read up about the Cervarix and Gardasil vaccines here7.
4. Advocate for the Programs that Increase Access to Well-Woman Services
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has increased the affordability of insurance coverage by expanding Medicaid in 28 states8 and providing discounted insurance plans to low-income consumers. Under the ACA, preventative services, like women’s wellness exams and vaccines, are provided by Medicaid and plans through the Marketplace without co-pays. While this is the case, programs and clinics that provide free or low cost preventative health screenings and vaccines are important to the women who remain uninsured (due to the cost or their eligibility) and rely on those programs. Be a women’s health advocate and fight to protect the programs that allow women to be in control of their cervical health!
Programs for Low Cost or Free Pap smears and HPV Vaccines
- Gardasil Patient Assistance Program: free HPV vaccines for those who qualify
- Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program: free HPV vaccines for children
- Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program: free breast and cervical cancer screenings for those who qualify
- Illinois Medicaid: free health coverage for low-income adults and children
Written by Cristina Turino, Research Assistant and UIC MPH/MBA Candidate
1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Cervical cancer trends. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/statistics/trends.htm
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Cervical cancer statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/statistics/index.htm
3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). What should I know about screening? Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/screening.htm
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Human papillomavirus (HPV) –Associated cancers. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/statistics/cases.htm
6The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2012). New cervical cancer screening guidelines announced. http://www.acog.org/-/media/Districts/District-II/PDFs/USPSTF-Cervical-Ca-Screening-Guidelines.pdf
7Association for Reproductive Health Professionals. (2012). Health matters fact sheet – Understanding HPV vaccines. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm
8Kaiser Family Foundation. (2015). Current status of state Medicaid expansion decisions. Retrieved from http://kff.org/health-reform/slide/current-status-of-the-medicaid-expansion-decision/
Before moving to Chicago to study Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Epidemiology at UIC, Amy Solsman spent two years in Shalisi, a rural village in South Africa, with the Peace Corps teaching math to 120 5th graders. While not a regular element of the math curriculum, Amy taught her students about HIV prevention and contraception. She felt that this was especially important due to the high prevalence of HIV in the area and the relative silence and stigma surrounding the virus in the village. She taught her students about dental hygiene and good tooth brushing habits. Amy also established a Permagarden Committee that created a school garden and provided nutritional education. Her passion to improve the health literacy and the health status of her students was a result from, in part, bearing witness to the unjust, negative consequences of a lack of access to resources and health care.
Amy said that working for a year at the Boys and Girls Club and her two years as a math teacher in South Africa “helps me keep perspective in the classroom because if you want to make a difference, you have to understand who you are serving.” The skills she is learning at the UIC School of Public Health (UIC SPH) are helping her further put her passion into practice. Amy is MPH candidate with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology. She feels that she is getting tangible and applicable skills in research and data analysis, and the Maternal and Child Health Program’s leadership training is better preparing her for the workforce where capabilities in leadership are needed and valued.
Amy chose the UIC SPH because of the MCH Epidemiology Program, and because the curriculum incorporates community based participatory research (CBPR) models and has a focus on local, state-wide, and national public health issues. Upon acceptance to UIC, Amy was awarded the Irving Harris Maternal and Child Health Assistantship. As a Research Assistant for the MCHP, Amy has had the opportunity to work on a study with Dr. Arden Handler that focuses on improving the utilization of the postpartum visit for increasing postpartum contraception use.
Written by Cristina Turino, Research Assistant and UIC MPH/MBA Candidate
In January 2015, I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, titled “United to Build Healthier Communities,” was an opportunity for me to network, learn, and go to Capitol Hill to advocate for the MCH Title V Block Grant.
On Saturday, I began the conference by attending a skills building session focused on community economic development strategies. This session emphasized collaborations, partnerships, and constituency building in expanding our MCH work to focus on economic development as a social determinant. At this session, a group of us from different sectors in Illinois brainstormed different ways in which economic barriers perpetuate inequities for Illinois families.
Other sessions that I attended focused on early childhood, MCH leadership, collaboration in policy and advocacy, systems thinking, and MCH 2015 policy issues. Since the conference brought together leaders from non-profits, universities, and state and local MCH programs, these sessions created rich discussions because of the various expertise and viewpoints. Often, these sessions were interactive and collaborative and I appreciated learning from the leaders of the sessions as well as the attendees.
Monday was the most rewarding day for me at the conference. After attending a session on 2015 MCH policy and discussing the funding needs of MCH programs, I went to Capitol Hill to advocate for Title V along with Dr. Arden Handler, Illinois Title V Director Dr. Brenda Jones, and LEND trainee Ryan Murphy. We visited both Illinois Senator Dick Durbin’s and Senator Mark Kirk’s offices and met with their health aids. We shared information on the importance of the MCH Title V Block Grant and the impactful work happening in Illinois. In addition, we provided resources on UIC SPH’s MCHP program, the LEND program, and other Block Grant specific programs. It was a pleasure to attend this hill visit that Dr. Handler organizes annually. In Dr. Handler’s Advocacy and Policy course, I learned about strategic ways to advocate to a legislator, and this was a prime opportunity for me to practice with a pro!
Throughout this conference, I took advantage of the opportunity of being around so many MCH professionals by networking. AMCHP encourages state programs to learn from their regional peers and the region V (IL, WI, MI, MN, OH, IN) lunch was a chance for us to meet with and learn from these other Title V programs. However, by far, the highlight of my networking efforts was meeting Dr. Michael Lu, Associate Administrator of MCHB! He was a pleasure to speak with and was encouraging of my upcoming step into the MCH workforce. Overall, this conference was a huge success; I tackled my first lobbying experience, made some promising connections, and gained a deeper understanding of the network of Title V programs and the future directions of the Block Grant. I am thankful to UIC SPH MCHP for providing me the opportunity to attend this conference!
Written by Joanna Tess, UIC Maternal and Child Health MPH Candidate
Jessica Bushar, MPH
Research Director Text4baby
National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition
Jessica Bushar earned a Master of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology at UIC in 2010 and was a recipient of an award from Irving Harris Foundation. Following her graduation from UIC, Jessica was a Principal Research Analyst at NORC at the University of Chicago. In 2012, she began working at the National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB) where she now holds the position of Research Director of Text4baby.
Jessica is passionate about her work on Text4baby, which partners with more than 1,200 local, state, and national partners to improve the health of mothers and babies by providing timely, vital health and safety information to mothers by via text message. The Text4baby program has reached over 800,000 pregnant women and new moms and provided them with over 116 million text messages. As the Research Director, Jessica spends much of her time at HMHB working with partners and staff to evaluate Text4baby’s impact and facilitate research informed quality improvement.
Jessica believes her degree in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology from UIC helped improve her qualitative research skills and gain the competencies needed to make her a well-rounded researcher – skills that have made it possible for her to excel at her position as Research Director of Text4baby. Jessica’s research is implemented in real time to make a widespread positive impact on the lives of moms and babies through easy to access, crucial health information.
Written by Cristina Turino, UIC Research Assistant and UIC MCH MPH Candidate