November 1, 2016

Insights in Public Health: Substance Use in Pregnant Women in Hawai‘i: Extending Our Capacity and Compassion

Rebecca Delafield, MPH and Tricia E. Wright MD, MS, FACOG, FASAM

Hawaii Journal of Medicine & Public Health

Substance use can have serious consequences for the health and well-being of individuals. The problem is of particular concern when it involves pregnant women due to health risks for the mother and the fetus. In utero exposure to either legal (eg, alcohol, cigarettes, and certain prescription drugs) or illicit (eg, amphetamines, cocaine, and opioids) substances can result in potentially serious and long-lasting health problems for infants. Available data from Hawai‘i indicate that substance use among pregnant women is higher than national targets, which reflect the fact that there is essentially no acceptable rate of use of these substances. Developing an effective system to support virtual elimination of substance use in pregnancy requires broad-based strategies. Progress is being made in Hawai‘i to better identify and address substance use in pregnancy. These efforts are being guided by a variety of stakeholders who are dedicated to improving the healthcare and health outcomes for this population. However, significant challenges to the system remain, including provider shortages, lack of local investment, and limited capacity of appropriate, individualized treatment.

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