MAC faculty and staff are broadening their reach and dissemination capacity in work that supports the health and well-being of women, children, and families. Our research identifies and addresses how social environments may explain many of the health disparities we observe for women and families. While much of the research is accessible through published scientific papers in several journals, we continue to work towards wider dissemination, including policy briefs, reports, and presentations with the goal of increasing awareness and providing tools for researchers, community leaders, policymakers, and others who can act and inspire change.
Our research and that of our partners show how far-reaching the social environment may be in terms of health and well-being. Place Matters: Neighborhood Violence and Children’s Biologic Stress published in JAMA Pediatrics and Role of Direct and Indirect Violence Exposure on Externalizing Behavior in Children in the Journal of Urban Health highlight the role of place-based violence and violent experiences across multiple contexts (e.g., neighborhood, home) on children’s health and well-being.
Turning to the more distal systemic and policy environments, our research highlights the importance of protecting the reproductive rights of women. This evidence-based research is urgently needed in today’s political climate with ideologically-based legislation threatening both women’s rights and population health. Our Editor’s Choice article in this month’s edition of Women’s Health Issues (WHI) demonstrates links between restrictive reproductive rights policies and higher rates of preterm birth and low birthweight infants. In a related publication, Zika: A Missed Opportunity to Protect Women’s Health and Prevent Unwanted Pregnancies, we argue that the emergent threat of Zika virus represents an unprecedented opportunity to shift public health policy, legislation, and programming to bolster and support women’s reproductive rights.
Policies in the workplace may also have major implications for the health of women, children, and families. The absence of paid leave policies both in Louisiana and nationally negatively impacts the health and economic security of workers as highlighted in our publication, An Analysis of Paid Family and Sick Leave Advocacy in Louisiana: Lessons Learned recently released in WHI. We have also created and are disseminating two policy briefs on the issue: Paid family and medical leave; saves money, keeps workers and families happy and healthy and How paid sick days save money and promote health. Universal support for breastfeeding policies in the workplace is also lacking and our work, Awareness of United States’ Law for Nursing Mothers among employers in New Orleans, Louisiana, highlights the limited awareness of businesses’ legal responsibility under the Affordable Care Act to provide space for women to breastfeed. We are currently working with the Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Public Health’s Bureau of Family Health to help businesses increase this support and change policy in the workplace.As 2017 evolves, MAC will be persistent its efforts to bring to the forefront through research and evaluation the impact of social context on health.
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