The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the availability of quality healthcare before, during, and after pregnancy by investing $8.5 million in initiatives designed to reduce pregnancy-related deaths and complications that disproportionately impact minority populations and those living in rural areas.
Firstly, OASH announced the winners of the first phase of the HHS Racial Equity in Postpartum Care Challenge. American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) and Black women are two to three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than Caucasian women. In addition, more than one-half of pregnancy-related mortality occurs in the 12-month postpartum period and about one-third occurs between seven and 365 days post-delivery. As such, OASH is recognizing 25 organizations that have successfully increased access to, attendance at, and quality of care for postpartum visits for Black or African American and AI/AN beneficiaries enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The United States' maternal mortality rate is the highest of any developed nation in the world and more than double the rate of peer countries. These "challenge" awards add to an expanding list of programs and projects that underscore the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to cutting the rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, reducing the disparities in maternal health outcomes, and improving the overall experience of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum for people across the country.
Secondly, OASH has solicited applications for three new funding opportunities. They include:
· Improving Maternal Health Through Addressing Endometriosis, Fibroids and/or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which supports the development of evidenced-based interventions to comprehensively identify and treat endometriosis, fibroids, and/or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – three conditions that increase the risk of pregnancy complications and adverse maternal health outcomes.
· Reducing Maternal Deaths Due to Substance Use Disorder, which aims to strengthen perinatal and postnatal support structures for patients with substance use disorder (SUD) and reduce deaths during the perinatal and postpartum period and;
· The Violence Against Women and Substance Use Prevention Initiative, which seeks to train SUD providers in intimate partner violence (IPV) and address the intersection of IPV and SUD during the pregnancy and postpartum period.
"Maternal health is a top priority for my office," said Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine. "New efforts by this Administration, coupled with an array of existing resources already available, will ensure maternal health excellence for this country is achieved."
Numerous other OASH projects – from training healthcare providers on combating implicit biases to expanding the number of highly qualified providers and promoting equitable care for people of color, LGBTQI+ individuals, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes – underscore OASH's commitment to improving health outcomes and advancing equity among pregnant and postpartum persons.