In recent years, as high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. have alarmed researchers, one statistic has been especially concerning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of White mothers. In New York City, Black mothers are 12 times more likely than White mothers to die from pregnancy-related factors.
The Fund for Public Health in New York City (FPHNYC) in collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (Health Department) has received a $1.8 million award from Merck for Mothers to address persistent racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health.
This new funding will build on the Health Department’s efforts to focus on severe maternal morbidity (SMM), which is defined as life-threatening complications during or after childbirth, such as heavy bleeding, kidney failure, stroke or heart attack. In New York City, instances of SMM happen at about 100 times the rate of maternal deaths. These instances give researchers the opportunity to learn directly from the women who survive them.
The grant supports the integration of detailed SMM case reviews into ongoing hospital quality improvement processes in three hospitals; tests a model of integrating SMM into a citywide Maternal Mortality Review Committee; develops community interventions to address conditions that lead to SMM and maternal mortality; and develops a how-to toolkit for other jurisdictions interested in replicating the work.
This is FPHNYC’s and the Health Department’s second collaboration with Merck for Mothers; the first funded the establishment of the first-ever citywide SMM monitoring system and resulted in the Severe Maternal Morbidity in New York City, 2008-2012 report, released in 2016. The report shows that SMM affects approximately 2,500 New York City women a year. Black, non-Latina women have significantly higher rates than Whites, even when controlling for education and socio-economic status, which is likely a result of structural racism.
“We are pleased to continue our partnership with the Health Department and Merck for Mothers,” said Sara Gardner, executive director of the Fund for Public Health in New York City. “This is an important opportunity to integrate the experiences of new mothers so we can better understand what causes racial disparities and support the development of effective interventions.”