Who Delivers Maternal and Child Health Services? The Contributions of Public Health and Other Community Partners

Original Scholarship
Child Health Public Health

Policy Points:

  • Local health departments with direct maternal and child health service provisions exhibit greater social service collaboration, thereby enhancing community capacity to improve health care access and social determinant support.
  • These findings may prioritize collaboration as a community-based effort to reduce disparities in maternal and child health and chronic disease.

Context: Improving maternal and child health (MCH) care in the United States requires solutions to address care access and the social determinants that contribute to health disparities. Direct service provision of MCH services by local health departments (LHDs) may substitute or complement public health services provided by other community organizations, impacting local service delivery capacity. We measured MCH service provision among LHDs and examined its association with patterns of social service collaboration among community partners.

Methods: We analyzed the 2018 National Longitudinal Survey of Public Health Systems and 2016 National Association of County and City Health Officials Profile data to measure the LHD provision of MCH services and the types of social services involved in the implementation of essential public health activities. We compared the extensive and intensive margins of social service collaboration among LHDs with any versus no MCH service provision. We then used latent class analysis (LCA) to classify collaboration and logistic regression to estimate community correlates of collaboration.

Findings: Of 620 LHDs, 527 (85%) provided at least one of seven observed MCH services. The most common service was Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (71%), and the least common was obstetric care (15%). LHDs with MCH service provision were significantly more likely to collaborate with all types of social service organizations. LCA identified two classes of LHDs: high (n = 257; 49%) and low (n = 270; 51%) collaborators. Between 74% and 96% of high collaborators were engaged with social service organizations that provided basic needs services, compared with 31%-60% of low collaborators. Rurality and very high maternal vulnerability were significantly correlated with low collaboration among MCH service– providing LHDs.

Conclusions: LHDs with direct MCH service provision exhibited greater social service collaboration. Collaboration was lowest in rural communities and communities with very high maternal vulnerability. Over half of MCH service–providing LHDs were classified as low collaborators, suggesting unrealized opportunities for social service engagement in these communities.

Open Access


Quinlan T, Mitchell A, Mays G. Who Delivers Maternal and Child Health Services? The Contributions of Public Health and Other Community Partners. Milbank Q. 2023;101(1)0127