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Maternal health inequities in New York City are stark, with Black women and birthing persons being 9x more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than their white counterparts. And each life lost represents more than just a statistic; it is a mother, a partner, and a community member whose death could have been prevented with the right care and resources.

Dr. Michelle Morse, the NYC Health Department’s Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Commissioner, and Assistant Commissioner Dr. Zahira McNatt, recently joined FPHNYC for a webinar discussion on Black Maternal Health in NYC.

The City of New York’s commitment to improving maternal health outcomes is not new; the Department of Health has been dedicated to this cause for decades. However, the inequitable outcomes for Black maternal health is an alarming crisis that demands urgent attention. In response, Dr. Morse’s office launched its Birth Equity Initiative (link to PDF info sheet) as an innovative umbrella effort to streamline, expand resources, and improve the impact of maternal health programs.  

The Birth Equity Initiative utilizes a collective impact approach to discern the key drivers of birth outcome inequities and explore both traditional and innovative solutions. Beginning in Brooklyn (the borough with the most Black pregnancies and births in NYC) and ultimately spreading to other areas of the city, the Birth Equity Initiative has been moving forward with three strategic components: the convening of diverse stakeholders to develop collective impact goals; developing a model to bundle Medicaid maternal home payments; and enhancing and expanding the integration of primary care services for underserved and at-risk birthing persons.

“Our goal is to reduce preventable mortality by 50% over the next five years. At present, 75% of pregnancy-associated deaths among Black mothers were preventable, compared to 43% in their white counterparts, and 65% in their Latina counterparts. “

To realize this goal, the vision is to work across sectors and create comprehensive strategies for support that encompass collaboration between government, philanthropy, and individuals. FPHNYC is the Health Department’s longtime and trusted partner for launching collaborative initiatives like the Birth Equity Initiative. These collaborations provide scalable and high-impact solutions to some of our most pressing public health issues like maternal health, as well as the opioid epidemic, and mental health. We welcome your collaboration and support! Contact us.

Wrapping up the webinar, FPHNYC’s CEO, Sara Gardner, stressed:

“Everybody needs to understand this issue and what they can personally do about it.  Improving public health and particularly eliminating the disparities between Black maternal mortality and other birthing people is going to take partnerships that bring together government, community, philanthropy, and our personal networks.”

Use your voice and connections to raise awareness about Black maternal health and the Birth Equity Initiative. Learn more about the community organizations assisting birthing persons in NYC and consider how you can best apply your talents and resources to address preventable racial and ethnic inequities in maternal outcomes. Also, explore the in-person and online events offered by the Health Department’s Center for Health Equity & Community Wellness for expectant and new parents.

By unifying government commitment, communal resources, and individual action, the Birth Equity Initiative can help transform the narratives surrounding maternal health, fostering a city – and ultimately a world – where every birthing person can experience safe and equitable care.