Cuts in local health department spending on maternal and child health programs are linked to increased rates of underweight babies, according to a study led by the University of Washington Schools of Public Health and Nursing.
Researchers explored 11 years of data from 102 county health departments across Washington and Florida for the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Underweight infants are costly to the health care system and can suffer negative long-term outcomes well into adulthood, researchers say.
“Our study really underscores the value of local health department services around maternal and child health, particularly in needy communities,” said lead author Dr. Betty Bekemeier, an adjunct associate professor of health services in the School of Public Health and an associate professor in the School of Nursing. “These findings come at a time when those same services have been in jeopardy.”
Dr. Bekemeier said the study was a first step to helping funding sources understand the impact of program cuts and the need for consistent tracing methods for health department data and services. Dr. David Grembowski, professor of health services in the School of Public Health, was senior author.