The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is currently pursuing initiatives to improve the health and well-being of pregnant women, mothers and infants living in low-income households in Michigan, and the Youth Policy Lab will assist MDHHS in two important pieces of this work. First, MDHHS is undertaking a Pay for Success project with West Michigan-based Spectrum Health to expand Michigan’s Strong Beginnings program, which provides home visitation, social support, referrals and other wraparound services to pregnant women and new moms who may not otherwise have access. To ensure Strong Beginnings is as effective as possible, and as part of the Pay For Success project, MDHHS will formally evaluate the program to determine its impact on two distinct, important and measurable indicators: 1) the rate of pre-term births and 2) the rate of ‘rapid-repeat’ pregnancies –new pregnancies occurring within 12-24 months of a recent birth – often monitored for possible public health and policy interventions and as a way to ensure positive long-term health, economic and developmental outcomes for moms and children.
The Youth Policy Lab will advise MDHHS with respect to the evaluation and will serve as a validator for MDHHS to certify that on-the-ground evaluators have closely followed the methodology outlined in the evaluation plan.
Second, in addition to Strong Beginnings, MDHHS plans to identify and grow other high-impact initiatives that improve outcomes for high-risk mothers and children statewide, possibly to include redesigning the existing referral system for maternal health programs. As part of this partnership, the Lab will work with MDHHS to identify, design and evaluate these and other promising initiatives.