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Group photo from birth equity convening

Participants Will Discuss Ways to Improve Maternal Health to Protect Black Families and Babies in New York City

Advances Adams Administration’s Goal in HealthyNYC to Reduce Black Maternal Mortality by 10 Percent by 2030

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan today announced that the Adams administration — in partnership with the Fund for Public Health NYC and The Clinton Global Initiative — will host a conference to discuss how New York City can improve Black maternal health and significantly reduce preventable maternal deaths. Leaders from across different sectors will join the conference today (March12), including representatives from government, academia, health care, advocacy, and philanthropy. As the city aims to reduce Black maternal mortality by 10 percent by 2030 through HealthyNYC — New York City’s ambitious plan to improve and extend the average lifespan of all New Yorkers — participants will discuss strategies to bolster maternal health across the five boroughs, save lives, and build healthier families and communities. Today’s conference also represents a continuation of the work of “Women Forward NYC: An Action Plan for Gender Equity,” the Adams administration’s $43 million plan with the ambitious goal to make New York City the most woman-forward city in the country.

“This is a critical moment for women’s health in New York City and across the country,” said Mayor Adams. “The numbers are clear: Black New Yorkers are four times more likely than white New Yorkers to experience a pregnancy-associated death. Our administration has taken action to boost birth equity, expanding the doula program citywide, signing a package of bills to strengthen maternal health, and setting the ambitious goal of reducing Black maternal mortality by 10 percent by 2030. Today’s conference is a continuation of that work, bringing leaders from across sectors to the table to discuss solutions to determine how we can build a city that supports all new families. Our children are our most precious resource and by investing in them and their families from the start, we’ll build a safer and healthier city for generations to come.”

“Regardless of your race or zip code, women in New York City should have access to the resources and support needed to ensure a safe, healthy birth,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright. “For too long, Black women experiencing childbirth have faced systemic odds. Data has constantly showed the inequities within maternal care, and today we are taking a step towards addressing that disparity. Today’s announcement is a true cross-sector, solution driven collaboration of thought leaders, health experts, and government officials convening with the sole purpose of making sure Black women and their families are safe during one of life’s most important moments.”

“Since the first day of this administration, the issue of maternal health and birth equity have been top priorities,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “We have and will continue to support expectant parents before, during, and after they welcome their new family member. Thank you to our partners for coming together for this convening and for joining with us in this effort.”

“When it comes to promoting longer, healthier lives, all roads run through equity,” said DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “There is no more important place to start that than at the beginning of life. This conference is about partnership and building an infrastructure to support Black families, which has been missing for far too long.”

“Prioritizing the health and wellbeing of Black women and birthing people means committing new resources and implementing solutions that come directly from Black women and birthing people,” said DOHMH Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Michelle Morse. “To support those priorities, we at DOHMH support reducing siloes and bridging public health and health care because collaboration that centers community-based care is one key step towards birth equity.”

“We know from DOHMH Maternal Mortality Review Committee reports that mental health conditions are among the leading causes of maternal mortality,” said Leslie A. Hayes, M.D., DOHMH Deputy Commissioner for the Family and Child Health Division. “We also know that most of these deaths are preventable.  Today’s convening is an exciting opportunity to turn ideas into actions and to make a huge difference in the lives of Black families. We look forward to working with our philanthropic funders, community leaders, and other public health experts.”

“Eliminating the inequities in maternal mortality between Black and other birthing people is going to take partnerships,” said Sara Gardner, CEO, Fund for Public Health NYC. “Today’s conference brings together government, community, and philanthropy to discuss how to support pregnant New Yorkers and their families, ensuring they can not only survive, but also thrive.”

“The Black maternal health crisis is an existential issue that not only deserves our attention; it deserves, and requires, our shared commitment to action. To be successful, we will need everyone in this fight — from health care to business, from government to philanthropy,” said Dr. Chelsea Clinton. “At the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiatives, we stand ready to be of service in any way we can. And I am hopeful that together we can build a safer, healthier, and more equitable future.”

Speakers at today’s conference include Dr. Chelsea Clinton, First Deputy Mayor Wright, DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Vasan, DOHMH Deputy Commissioner Dr. Leslie Hayes, DOHMH Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Michelle Morse alongside community subject matter experts, Dr. Ashanda Saint Jean, Nekeisha Afful, Naima Beckles, Helena Grant, and Ilish Neely.

Tackling maternal mortality is an urgent priority for the Adams administration: Black New Yorkers are four times more likely than white New Yorkers to experience a pregnancy-associated death. From 2016 to 2018, data shows that 72 percent of pregnancy-associated deaths among Black mothers were preventable, compared to 43 percent for white mothers, and 65 percent for Latina mothers. The Adams administration has taken action to strengthen birth equity, expanding the doula program citywide, signing a package of bills to strengthen maternal health, and setting the ambitious goal of reducing Black maternal mortality by 10 percent by 2023.

In January 2024, following his State of the City address, Mayor Adams announced Women Forward NYC. Supported through city dollars, private and public partnerships, academic institutions, and federal grant funding, the action plan addresses gender disparities by connecting women to professional development and higher-paying jobs; dismantling barriers to sexual, reproductive, and chronic health care; reducing gender-based violence against women; and providing holistic housing services, including for formerly incarcerated women and domestic and gender-based violence survivors.

Read the Original Press Release

Photo: Joseph Sinnott for FPHNYC