Catalyzing a Reproductive Health and Social Justice Movement

Matern Child Health J. 2016 Apr;20(4):741-8. doi: 10.1007/s10995-015-1917-5.


Objectives: The maternal and child health (MCH) community, partnering with women and their families, has the potential to play a critical role in advancing a new multi-sector social movement focused on creating a women's reproductive and economic justice agenda. Since the turn of the twenty-first century, the MCH field has been planting seeds for change. The time has come for this work to bear fruit as many states are facing stagnant or slow progress in reducing infant mortality, increasing maternal death rates, and growing health inequities.

Methods: This paper synthesizes three current, interrelated approaches to addressing MCH challenges-life course theory, preconception health, and social justice/reproductive equity.

Conclusion: Based on these core constructs, the authors offer four directions for advancing efforts to improve MCH outcomes. The first is to ensure access to quality health care for all. The second is to facilitate change through critical conversations about challenging issues such as poverty, racism, sexism, and immigration; the relevance of evidence-based practice in disenfranchised communities; and how we might be perpetuating inequities in our institutions. The third is to develop collaborative spaces in which leaders across diverse sectors can see their roles in creating equitable neighborhood conditions that ensure optimal reproductive choices and outcomes for women and their families. Last, the authors suggest that leaders engage the MCH workforce and its consumers in dialogue and action about local and national policies that address the social determinants of health and how these policies influence reproductive and early childhood outcomes.

Keywords: Health equity; Infant mortality; Life course; MCH leadership; Preconception; Reproductive equity; Social determinants of health.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Maternal-Child Health Services*
  • Pregnancy
  • Public Health
  • Reproductive Health*
  • Social Justice*