The Budget: What Does it Mean for Mothers?

What President Obama’s Proposed Budget for fiscal year 2016 Will Do For Mothers.

Yesterday, President Obama proposed his budget for Fiscal Year — 2016 (FY16) and the global health, development, humanitarian and emergency assistance community held its breath. The U.S. budget obviously funds a lot of programs and support for maternal health programs are only a small part — but those funds are critical.

In terms of maternal health budgeting, Every Mother Counts is focused both overseas and in the United States. We were particularly interested in how maternal health resources were allocated from different parts of the Federal budget for each. For the U.S., critical programs include WIC (Women, Infants and Children — a program that provides food assistance to at-risk mothers and children), Medicaid (which funds 40 percent of American births) and other programs. We learned that the President’s budget includes:

  • Flat funding of $637 million for the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant
  • A call to extend and expand the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program
  • A $13.5 million increase for Title X Family Planning Grants and continuation of funding for other family planning programs.

On the global front, we learned that the President has requested:

  • $770million for global Maternal and Child Health, which is 7.7% above the $715m currently enacted, but below the $850 million requested by the maternal, newborn and child health community.
  • Family Planning and Reproductive Health received a 2.7 percent bump from the $524 currently enacted to $538 million.

Many Americans wonder why we spend any money overseas when there’s so much work to be done here in the U.S. The Foreign Affairs budget and the work it pays for has long been misunderstood. When polled, a majority of Americans think that 20–25 percent of the entire U.S. budget is sent to poor and developing countries. When asked how much they think is reasonable, they say, “not a dollar more than 10 percent.” In truth, the Foreign Affairs budget comprises less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget. With that money, we support not only programs to help people and countries around the world, but a wide range of programs that establishes the U.S. as a powerful and stabilizing presence in the world.

The U.S. and other developed countries have made a commitment to improving maternal, newborn and child health as part of the United Nation’s goal to eradicate extreme poverty, but achievement of improved maternal health continues to lag behind many others. We know though that the health and strength of any family and community starts with its’ mothers. When a mother is healthy, her children are more likely to survive, thrive and be educated. The mother herself is more capable of getting an education, becoming employed and contributing to both her family and community’s economy, which helps lift them out of poverty. She can’t do it alone though and whether she lives in the U.S. or in a country far away, she needs the help of the global community and the U.S. Federal Budget. Now that we know what the President proposes for FY 16, we’ll hold our breaths once again until we find out if it’s a budget Congress will approve.

*Photo: Larry Downing/Reuters

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