The NCIOM launched its Task Force on Maternal Health in June 2020. Convened in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, Women’s and Children’s Health Section, the task force’s goal is to identify evidence-based solutions to improve maternal health outcomes in North Carolina and develop a Maternal Health Strategic Plan for the state. The task force will also build upon the work of the NCIOM Perinatal Systems of Care Task Force and align with the state’s Perinatal Health Strategic Plan and Early Childhood Action Plan.
Pregnancy accommodations in the workplace
A major focus of the NCIOM’s maternal health work is on pregnancy accommodations in the workplace, which may include more frequent bathroom breaks, schedule modifications to allow for prenatal and other medical appointments, or the ability to sit down while performing work-related duties. These accommodations, along with other family-friendly workplace policies, have been shown to lower the risk of premature birth, low birthweight, and miscarriage, while also improving maternal outcomes. Employers also benefit from these and other family-friendly workplace policies.
On October 26, the Perinatal Health Committee of the North Carolina General Assembly’s Child Fatality Task Force, which focuses on reducing infant mortality rates and strengthening child and family well-being, met to discuss updates to the Perinatal Health Strategic Plan, the NCIOM Task Force on Maternal Health, workplace accommodations related to pregnancy, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and families across the state. During this meeting, the Perinatal Health Committee recommended that the Child Fatality Task Force endorse legislation that would guarantee all North Carolina workers the right to reasonable pregnancy and lactation accommodations in the workplace. The Child Fatality Task Force subsequently voted in favor of this recommendation on November 16.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the need for family-friendly workplace policies to improve maternal and infant outcomes and support North Carolina families has intensified. In response, North Carolina partners have asked the General Assembly to pass legislation this session, noting that 30 states including South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia have already taken steps to provide accommodations. Senate Bill 558, which would provide workplace accommodations for pregnant employees and protections against discrimination of pregnant employees, was first introduced on April 2, 2019. At the federal level, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act passed in the House on September 17, 2020, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions for review.
“MomsRising is encouraged to see the Child Fatality Task Force again vote to endorse pregnancy accommodations in the workplace,” said Beth Messersmith, Senior Campaign Director for MomsRising’s North Carolina Chapter. “North Carolina workers and families deserve the same reasonable accommodations that workers in neighboring states can access right now.”
The Child Fatality Task Force’s 2020 Action Agenda can be found here.
Essentials for Childhood Framework to Support Children and Families
Since 2014, the North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) has partnered with several organizations to implement strategies focused on child maltreatment prevention and promoting safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments for children and families under the CDC Essentials for Childhood framework.
This framework includes strategies to provide economic supports for families (including policies to address income and food and housing security), enhance trauma-informed practices and communities, and ensure family-friendly workplace policies. North Carolina Essentials for Childhood provides funding support to our partners engaged in these activities: