Expecting parents in nearly 60% of counties in Illinois live in maternity care deserts, and after bringing home a newborn, essential services can sometimes be even more difficult to access. Regardless of zip code or family income, when welcoming a new baby, all parents and families could benefit from additional encouragement and support. That is why Illinois is working to build the necessary public infrastructure and funding systems to scale Universal Newborn Support Systems (UNSS) that provide free, voluntary, short-term home visiting and referral services to every family in the state at the birth of a new baby, to make connections to the supportive services and resources they may need and want.
While the ultimate goal of UNSS is to be universally available within every community, scaling UNSS programs is not likely to happen everywhere at once. Further, for a UNSS program to be successful, a community must already have resources available to which UNSS providers can refer parents. With this in mind, it becomes essential to understand where resources are available within the state, not only to determine where UNSS programs might be most effectively launched first, but also to pinpoint where additional resources and capacity-building work is needed. Our latest report, Universal Newborn Support Systems: A Review of Readiness, is a first step to understanding those questions.
Using county-level data, this report examines areas of “risk”—particularly focused on birth-related and perinatal risk factors, which UNSS programs are designed to address—as well as community resources and services. Using simple statistical analysis, communities that deviate farthest from the mean are highlighted. This report is intended to serve as a way to start the conversation and begin to frame the question of where Illinois’ UNSS efforts should be focused. However, it is not without limitations and should not be used as a determining factor in these decisions.