In mid-1984, a group of health professionals explored the possibility of creating a community-based organization, based on the national Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) model, to improve maternal and child health in Montana.  The newly-formed organization’s mission statement was, “To reduce the risk of maternal, perinatal, and infant mortality, morbidity, and disability.”

In its first year, HMHB grew from a handful to a hundred or more members. Many volunteered substantial personal time meeting monthly, attending retreats and conferences, developing organizational structure, and mission statement, and initiating projects.

Among the early projects were a women’s health survey, a study of baby bottle tooth decay, a survey of health conditions among migrant workers, the development of a maternal and child health resource directory, an adolescent health promotion plan, projects to develop allied organizations such as the Montana Children’s Alliance and the Montana Council for Maternal and Child Health, and the Montana Pregnancy Risk Line. The Pregnancy Risk Line went on-line in May of 1986, and the Montana Council for Maternal Child Health was incorporated in July of 1987 – the same month HMHB hired its first Executive Director.

Throughout the 1990’s, the organization was an independent voice for Montana’s mothers and children. It established a statewide teen health and pregnancy prevention program entitled PATH. This program had a statewide task force and an active Indian Advisory Group that supported the establishment of adolescent health initiatives on the reservations. Seventeen statewide HMHB-member coalitions had formed to assist in carrying out the organization’s mission and programs. The community-based vision had been realized.

In 1991, the “Baby Your Baby” program began. The program was a far-reaching public education program to urge every pregnant woman in Montana to seek prenatal care, information and referral. The program included a statewide, multi-media effort that drew attention to infant mortality and low birth weight in Montana. This program was a true public-private effort. Other Maternal Child Health programs that HMHB managed were breastfeeding promotion, technical assistance to the Montana Hunger Coalition, Tobacco Free promotion, among others. The organization has also strongly advocated for sound nutrition through providing educational materials that promote a wide variety of best choices for healthy eating habits.

Today, HMHB’s is involved in preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma through our PURPLE-MT program; promoting safe sleep to reduce the incidence of SIDS with our SafeSleep for Baby Program; providing car seats to families in need with our SafeSeat for Baby Program; and advocating for access to early and consistent prenatal and postnatal care, including a stronger focus on increasing support for those experiencing perinatal mood disorders and/or substance use disorders in pregnancy.