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New Initiatives to Address Disparities in Maternal Health

Black Maternal Health Week highlights importance of addressing disparities in care

April 15, 2022

Pennsylvania and the nation are facing an urgent public health challenge to address disparities in maternal health.

During Black Maternal Health Week, HAP joins organizations across the nation raising awareness about the importance of addressing disparities in maternal health. The campaign, recognized alongside National Minority Health Month, offers the opportunity to discuss disparities in maternal health and solutions to address them.

“Currently, Black mothers suffer pregnancy-related deaths at a rate that is three times higher compared to White mothers,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said this week. “This is unacceptable. These disparities persist regardless of education and income level. And we know that many of these deaths are preventable.”

In Pennsylvania, disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes are following similarly concerning trends. Pennsylvania’s 2022 state health assessment noted the maternal mortality rate was more than twice as high for Black people (22 per 100,000 live births) as their White counterparts (8.9 per 100,000 live births) from 2015 to 2019.

This week, state and federal leaders are highlighting efforts underway to address these disparities. On Wednesday, the Biden administration provided additional details about a new “birthing-friendly” hospital designation that will be coming to the CMS Hospital Compare website during 2023. The new reporting initiative will evaluate providers’ commitment to quality and safety of their maternity care.

“To advance health equity, we must integrate it into our programs, and that’s why we are seeking to measure hospital maternity care quality,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said.

Through the American Rescue Plan Act, Pennsylvania this month extended the Medicaid postpartum coverage period for mothers and birthing people who are eligible for the program because of their pregnancy. The coverage period has been extended from 60 days after birth to one year.

Medicaid covers about three in 10 births in Pennsylvania, state officials said, and the expansion ensures birthing parents do not lose access to care during this essential time.

HAP and Pennsylvania hospitals continue to focus on addressing disparities in care for patients across the commonwealth, as well as the social determinants of health that influence health outcomes.

More information about the state’s postpartum Medicaid expansion and Black Maternal Health Week is available online.