Director of Policy and Government Affairs
The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs
In this edition of Pulse focused on equity, we are excited to feature U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), who has established herself as a leader in promoting healthy equity. She serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chairs the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, and is the lead sponsor of the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness Act (MOMMA’s Act) to address maternal mortality.
As a Member of Congress, you’ve made it a priority to address maternal and child health. Can you tell us your motivation?
Kelly: In college, my undergraduate internship was with Child Development Center at Bradley University. Later in my career, I would work in a hospital providing mental and emotional support services to young patients. In a lot of ways, promoting children’s health has been a part of my entire career.
My genesis on maternal health is more recent and came when a constituent walked up to me at the grocery store and started talking about all the black women dying from pregnancy and childbirth. Of course, I went home and started researching, before unpacking my groceries, and I was shocked. I emailed my team, we started working engaging stakeholders and experts and that led to the MOMMA’s Act.
How are you leveraging your new post on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to continue raising the profile of addressing MCH through an equity lens?
Kelly: The House Energy and Commerce [E&C] Committee is the one-stop shop for public health policy. As the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, I’ve long worked to increase equity in health care. In recent years, that’s largely meant protecting the massive gains achieved under the ACA [Affordable Care Act]. Now that I serve on the E&C Committee and Democrats control Congress, I plan to continue these efforts.
Thankfully, Speaker Pelosi and [Committee] Chairman Pallone get it. They are committed to keeping people healthy and thriving and you couldn’t ask for more committed partners.
How can state leaders in maternal and child health best support you in your efforts?
Kelly: Step one: Always vote! Every election matters and every election has consequences.
Step two: Keep raising your voice. It was local and state health leaders, along with average citizens, who spoke out and prevented the repeal of the ACA. Your voice and your calls have power. Keep using them.