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Birth Equity Roundtable

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) recently partnered with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and FPHNYC for a roundtable on Black maternal health.  Dr. Chelsea Clinton was on hand to welcome senior figures from a number of foundations FPHNYC has identified as being interested in potentially funding expansions of the Department’s birth equity initiatives.

At last year’s CGI Meeting in September, the NYC Health Department and its partners committed to reduce birth inequities for Black women and pregnant persons through the Birth Equity Initiative, a new and innovative umbrella effort to streamline, expand resources and improve the impact of all maternal health programs.

“CGI, in general, is extremely expert in both motivating people to act and working across silos. Those are the biggest challenges that we have in all of our work in the health department and in birth equity and health equity, specifically,” said Dr. Michelle Morse, Chief Medical Officer, Deputy Commissioner to the NYC Health Department. “Our partnership with CGI, from my perspective, is really one of the partnerships that will allow us to do those two things more effectively.”

National data shows Black women and birthing persons are three times more likely to die as a result of their pregnancy; nine times more likely to die in New York state. The main driver for these rising inequities is structural racism. According to the NYC Health Department, 75 percent of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable in Black patients compared to 43 percent in white patients. More than 50 percent of pregnancy-related deaths occur up to 12 months after the labor experience in the hospital, with cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health issues, specifically opioid overdose and suicide, as the leading causes.

In order to address these issues, the Birth Equity Initiative has three strategic components to drive change: convene diverse stakeholders – community members, birth justice advocates, doulas, midwives, hospital leaders, insurers, health care workers – to develop collective impact goals; establish a Medicaid maternal home payment bundle model; and support the integration of primary care into marginalized communities.

Since the CGI 2022 Meeting, the NYC Health Department has convened a working group of 75 cross-sector partners who’ve developed a collective action vision statement and defined clear metrics and indicators to track progress. The Birth Equity Initiative is currently seeking funding to support the work of community-based organizations as they provide wrap-around resources like doulas, family wellness suites, postpartum home visits, and more to Black women and pregnant persons.

“We have to radically and urgently do a better job on birth equity in this city,” said Dr. Chelsea Clinton, and by leveraging the learning from the past 20 years, birth equity leaders are committed to move New York state into the next phase of maternal healthcare. We must take action by examining the drivers of preventable death in birthing people, working across silos, and building wrap-around community resources before, during, and after pregnancy. “We here at the Clinton Foundation and CGI stand ready to help and be of service in any way we can be,” Dr. Clinton said.

[Text and photo courtesy of Clinton Foundation] [Photo by Megan Maher, 2023]