Enacted Budget Invests $8 Million to Combat Maternal Mortality and Racial Disparities
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced in recognition of Black Maternal Health Week April 11-17, 2019, that the Enacted 2019-20 Budget includes an $8 million investment to support initiatives recommended over the last year by the New York State Taskforce on Maternal Mortality and Disparate Racial Outcomes. Black Maternal Health Week is an initiative created by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, a Black women-led cross-sectoral alliance to advocate for Black maternal health, rights and justice. Black Maternal Health Week is an opportunity to engage in the national conversation on Black maternal health policy, research and the reproductive and birth justice movements.
“Black Maternal Health Week is an opportunity to highlight New York’s comprehensive initiatives addressing the root causes of maternal mortality and other disparate outcomes that are threatening New York’s families,” Governor Cuomo said. “As a state and as a community, New York is a national leader in our efforts to resolve this social injustice and implement the successful components that provide real and lasting change.”
“Once again this year we are putting the focus on the health of black women and recognizing the racial inequities that exist in our society,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “While New York has made progress to ensure all women have access to quality, affordable health care to lower rates of maternal mortality, a vast racial disparity still exists that requires creative solutions and bold action. We will continue to fight this grave injustice, expand access to maternal care, and save lives.”
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “African American women are over three times more likely to die from a pregnancy related complication than white women. That is why events like Black Maternal Health Week are so important, as they shine a light on this crisis and help educate the public. The Senate Majority is proud to have worked with Governor Cuomo and our Assembly colleagues to provide additional state aid to combat maternal mortality and racial disparities.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “The Assembly Majority recognizes the seriousness of the disparities that exist in health outcomes for pregnant women in New York, particularly for women of color, and we have taken critical steps to address them. Earlier this year, we passed legislation to establish a maternal mortality review board because we know identifying the causes of maternal mortality is fundamental to addressing it. This funding will go a long way towards developing a comprehensive approach to delivering equitable care to all pregnant women and new mothers.”
Last April, the Governor announced the creation of the Taskforce, and several other initiatives to combat maternal mortality and reduce racial disparate outcomes. The legislature has agreed to funding to support Taskforce recommendations, including:
Expand Access to Community Health Workers: In 2018, the New York State Department of Health, under the leadership of Commissioner Howard Zucker, conducted seven listening sessions on maternal mortality across the state. A common request among communities was for increased access to community health workers (CHW). CHWs play a vital role in providing social support, information, advocacy and connection to services. To address this need, more than $2.6 million has been included in this year’s Budget to increase access to CHWs through the Department of Health’s Maternal Infant Community Health Collaboratives (MICHCs). In addition to CHW’s current scope, participants identified opportunities to expand activities to address key barriers that impact maternal outcomes, including additional outreach opportunities and community engagement.
Distribute Comprehensive Training and Education Program for Hospitals on Implicit Racial Bias: Racial disparities in women’s health cannot be improved without addressing racial bias, both implicit and explicit. Implicit racial bias, which has been shown to affect the patient-physician relationship as well as treatment decisions and outcomes, may impact the care of racially diverse patients. This year’s budget included funding to create a comprehensive training program for health care providers and hospitals that includes a robust curriculum to increase knowledge and understanding of how implicit bias and racism may impact patient care.
Establish a Comprehensive Data Warehouse on Perinatal Outcomes to Improve Quality: New York State will establish a robust data infrastructure to provide key data to perinatal hospitals to support access to timely quality measures. This data warehouse will be modeled after the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, which has proven to be crucial to improving maternal outcomes as well as addressing disparities.
Convene Statewide Expert Work Group to Optimize Postpartum Care in NYS: The healthcare system is not currently designed to incentivize the delivery of quality, ongoing postpartum care. To ensure women receive ongoing support during the postpartum period, the NYSDOH will convene an expert workgroup in partnership with American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The workgroup, comprised of providers, payers, state agencies and patients, aims to identify strategies to re-envision postpartum care as an ongoing process, rather than a single encounter, to foster individualized, patient-centered care and improve maternal health outcomes.
Additionally, to expand and improve the scope of both maternal and prenatal care, the New York State Department of Health is launching the Centering Pregnancy pilot, a program which brings together a small group of pregnant women who are due at approximately the same time. At each visit, a clinician briefly examines each woman individually, with the balance of time spent in interactive group sessions that allow the mothers-to-be to discuss concerns, share experiences and ask questions. This initiative is embedded within the First 1,000 Days Medicaid Redesign Initiative, first announced in 2017.
These initiatives, combined with other ongoing state efforts, are poised to establish New York as a leader in reducing maternal mortality and improving racial disparities in outcomes.
Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said, “The maternal mortality rate continues to rise nationwide, and black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition than white women. New York State is committed to a comprehensive strategy that actively involves stakeholders in key communities to addresses maternal mortality at its root causes of racial disparity and bias.”
Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, said, “It is a terrible reality that black mothers in New York State are currently dying and developing life-threatening complications while giving birth at an incredibly alarming rate. In observance of Black Maternal Mortality Week, we renew our commitment to aggressively address the healthcare disparities that are causing a higher mortality rate among Black women and recognize the importance of continuing to combat these outcomes by investing in initiatives that seek to address them, including the upcoming establishment of Maternal Mortality Review Boards in New York State and New York City.”
Assemblymember Richard N. Gottfried, Assembly Health Committee Chair, said, “New York’s maternal mortality rates are higher than they should be, with glaring racial disparities that must be addressed. Expanding access to maternal health professionals, improving provider training, and ensuring comprehensive data collection are important steps towards fixing this critical problem.“
Assemblymember Tremaine Wright Chair, Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus, said, “Black Maternal Health Week is an important part of our work to improve health outcomes for Black women and infants. Although the maternal mortality rate continues to rise nationwide, here in NYS where we have local organizations providing social support, advocacy and home visiting we are experiencing better outcomes. This year’s budget continues to support effective programs and fund the Taskforce recommendations which should lead to greater success.”
Assemblymember Latoya Joyner said, “This historic investment in maternal healthcare for black women is a critical response to a public health crisis that has been overlooked for far too long. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and his administration to address the disparities in care and close the healthcare gap that black women are facing each and every day.”