New York State Department of Health Recognizes Black Maternal Health Week

Department is Highlighting Several Programs Aimed at Eliminating Systemic Inequities that Impact Maternal Mortality

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 14, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health recognizes Black Maternal Health Week, celebrated April 11-17, by reaffirming its commitment to eliminating systemic inequities and creating safer birth experiences for all New York families. With studies showing that Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, the Department has engaged in a multifaceted effort to eliminate inequities and improve outreach during pregnancy.

"The Department remains committed to addressing and overcoming the racial disparities that impact every aspect of health, and in particular, the health of Black pregnant and birthing people, and those in the postpartum period," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Identifying and dismantling structural and institutional barriers such as racism in perinatal care, as well as supporting and strengthening communities, individuals, and families, are critical to making New York State the safest state for Black birthing people and their families."

The Department has several initiatives that address factors and negative outcomes impacting Black maternal health:

New York State Birth Equity Project

In January 2021, the Department's New York State Perinatal Quality Collaborative (NYSPQC), with support from the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) District II, Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS), and Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), began the New York State Birth Equity Improvement Project (NYSBEIP), a comprehensive learning collaborative with New York birthing hospitals and centers to support the development of anti-racism policies and practices at the facility level. The overarching goal of this project is to improve the experience of care and obstetric outcomes for Black women/birthing people in New York.

Some accomplishments from the NYSBEIP over the past two years:

  • Participation - Over 71 NYS birthing facilities are participating in the project, representing about 76% of annual births in NYS.
  • Equity - An equity curriculum that focuses on increasing individual awareness as well as discussing steps to disrupt systemic racism.
  • Voice of birthing people - Implementation of a Patient Reported Experience Measure (PREM) that gives every birthing person at participating facilities the opportunity to provide feedback on their care.
  • Stratified Data - All facilities participating in the project receive monthly trend reports stratified by race and ethnicity.

The clinical outcome goal of the NYSBEIP is to decrease the rate of low-risk cesarean births by 5% overall and by 5% for Black birthing people. In support of the NYSBEIP, the NYSPQC team developed a poster, Our Respectful Care Commitments to Every Birthing Person, which is available for download here.

NYS Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV)

MIECHV serves pregnant people and families with young children to help them achieve their optimal health and wellbeing and focuses on those who have been impacted the most by social determinants of health and inequities. Within MIECHV, the local implementing agencies (LIAs) work on continuous quality improvement (CQI) projects to ensure the services provided to program participants are of high quality and equitable. LIAs center their projects around SMARTIE objectives: Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound, Inclusive and Equitable outcomes.

As part of MIECHV, SCO Family of Services Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program is focused on increasing timely attendance of program participants at the postpartum visit. They serve Black participants who face inequities in attending those visits. This work increased the number of program participants attending their postpartum appointment. Similarly, another NFP program, VNS Health NFP, is currently working on increasing timely attendance at the postpartum visit for their CQI work, also serving Black participants.

Perinatal and Infant Community Health Collaboratives (PICHC) Initiative

The PICHC initiative was launched in July 2022 with a five-year, $14 million dollar annual fund that was awarded to 26 programs around New York to support the development, implementation, and coordination of collaborative community-based strategies to improve perinatal and infant health outcomes – including preterm birth, low birth weight, infant mortality, and maternal mortality – and eliminate racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in those outcomes.

Within a reproductive justice framework, PICHC programs implement both individual-level strategies to address perinatal and infant health behaviors, and community-level strategies using a collective impact approach, to address the social determinants which impact health outcomes.

The core individual-level strategy provides community health workers to outreach and support high-need, low-income, and/or Medicaid-eligible individuals of reproductive age (15-44 years old) who are most vulnerable to, or who have a previous history of, adverse birth outcomes.

Community-level strategies involve collaboration with diverse community partners, including community residents, to mobilize community action to address the social determinants impacting perinatal and infant health outcomes. For example, within their community, PICHC programs participate and/or lead advisory boards or consortiums focused on perinatal and infant health issues, consisting of various stakeholders, including but not limited to: community members, health care providers, birthing hospitals and Regional Perinatal Centers, and other community-based organizations. Within these advisory boards, PICHC programs can engage and train community members in civic engagement and collaborate with other partners to improve and increase access to other services and care.

For additional information on the Department's work to eliminate systemic inequities and create safer birth experiences, visit here.