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In Racine, we take care of each other. We look out for our neighbors and the kids on our block. We know that every child deserves to grow up safe, warm, healthy, and loved. But some families are slipping through the cracks.

Affordable, accessible health care is still out of reach for many families in Racine, and this burden falls the hardest on low income families and people of color. In Racine County, African American women are more than three times as likely to experience stillbirths and infant deaths than white women, according to a 2018 Racine County report.

We need to address racial disparities in maternal and child health and improve women’s access to preventative care, such as cancer screenings, health exams, and sexually transmitted infection testing and work toward healthier pregnancies and births for all. Local Racine programs have been working hard to address these issues head on. However, there is much work still to be done, and the next step is Governor Evers’ “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” budget initiative.

“Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” empowers women and their families to make their health care choices and expands the tools needed to fight infant mortality in Racine.

Along with the proposed Medicaid expansion, it strengthens our public health infrastructure to support women and families before, during and after pregnancy.

By accepting the federal Medicaid expansion, Wisconsin will give 82,000 more people access to affordable medical care and save our state an estimated $300 million. The groundbreaking “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” initiative reinvests $28 million of that savings to proven programs that reduce health disparities, support pregnant women and new moms, and ensure all women have access to preventative health services like cervical and breast cancer screenings.

“Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” creates an Infant Mortality Prevention Program at the Department of Health Services to work with local efforts fighting infant mortality to remove barriers to healthy pregnancies, including unstable housing, lack of nutritional and family supports, and unemployment.

It invests in proven programs that support women in their communities throughout pregnancy, including trained doulas who guide women through the pregnancy, birth and postpartum process. Doulas serve as critical supports for pregnant women and have been found to reduce labor complications and the likelihood of low-birth weight in babies.

It expands postpartum coverage for mothers enrolled in Medicaid from 60 days post-birth to a full year, aligning with best practices for healthy mothers set by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And it returns Title V and X funding access to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and increases funding for the state’s Women’s Health Block Grant to improve access to cancer screenings, prenatal counseling and STI prevention, testing and treatment, so that low-income women can access the care they need to stay healthy.

Here in Racine, we know that healthy women and healthy babies make for a healthy community. The People’s Budget, including the Medicaid expansion and “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies,” is working to make sure every mom, kid, and family has the resources they need for a healthy start in life. Let’s work together to pass the People’s Budget and make these proposals a reality, for a healthier, happier Racine and healthier, happier Wisconsin.

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Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, represents the 66th District in the Wisconsin Assembly.

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