The Reach Act: Investing in Maternal and Child Health

This post was written by Melissa Chacko, Policy Associate at Global Health Council.

Over the past few decades great strides have been made in maternal and child health: since 1990, the deaths of mothers and children under age 5 worldwide have been cut by more than half. The decrease in maternal and child mortality rates is a product of simple evidence-based solutions and inexpensive interventions. However, there is still a significant amount of work to do to ensure that no woman or child dies from a preventable death in our generation. Nearly 300,000 women continue to die annually due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth and 99% of these maternal deaths occur in the developing world. Access to quality care is essential for women and children as they are an integral part to building strong and prosperous communities. To reach the overarching goal of ending preventable deaths may seem idealistic, but it is achievable if we maximize the return on U.S. investments in maternal and child health programs.

In 2014, an advisory panel analyzed USAID’s Maternal and Child Health program, and found areas of improvement that would maximize the progress of the program. Since then, the program has undergone the process of implementing reform and exploring innovative financing tools to bring new resources to the field. However, with these measurements and expansion, also comes a need for greater coordination and accountability.

The Reach Every Mother and Child Act (S.1730) would create that accountability and coordination, as well as codify the reforms, all of which will keep USAID on track to reach its goal of reducing preventable child and maternal deaths and maximizing impact. In early August, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chris Coons (D-DE) led a bipartisan group of 10 Senators in reintroducing the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.

The Reach Act:

1) Requires a coordinated U.S. government strategy for contributing to reducing preventable child and maternal deaths;
2) Establishes rigorous reporting requirements to improve transparency, accountability, efficiency, and oversight of maternal and child health programs;
3) Ensures USAID focuses on the scale-up of highest impact, evidence-based interventions to maximize the return on existing U.S. investments;
4) Establishes the position of Child and Maternal Survival Coordinator at USAID to reduce duplication of efforts and ensure that resources are being used to maximum impact; and
5) Helps USAID explore and implement innovative financing tools, such as pay for success contracting, to leverage additional public and private resources, complementing existing U.S. assistance.

A similar version of the legislation was introduced in Congress last session (S.1911 and H.R. 3706) and received strong bipartisan support in both chambers.

In almost every field of health, women and children are the most vulnerable in areas that lack essential healthcare resources and systems. We can change this narrative by passing the Reach Act. The lasting impact of this legislation will be seen through the thousands of women and children who will live longer and healthier lives, due to access to quality care. With the Senate back in session, outreach for Senate cosponsors on the Reach Every Mother and Child Act is in full swing. It is important to rally support on this issue and vocalize the importance of bipartisan support on the Reach Act.

We encourage you to contact your Senators to voice your support for the Reach Act. You can find contact information for the Senate here.