HHS Celebrates Black Maternal Health Week 2023 Leave a comment

Funding announcements and events reflect ongoing commitment to advance Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of improving maternal health and advancing equity.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is celebrating Black Maternal Health Week, which takes place April 11 –17 each year during National Minority Health Month, with announcements and events across the Department and its agencies.

Today, HHS, through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is announcing the availability of approximately $468 million in funding related to maternal and child health across several programs:

  • Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program: Up to $435 million is available for current state, territory, and tribal awardees to continue their work supporting pregnant individuals and parents with young children who live in communities that face greater risks and barriers to achieving positive maternal and child health outcomes
  • State Maternal Health Innovation Program: Up to $23 million is available to assist states in implementing state-specific actions that address disparities in maternal health and improve maternal health outcomes
  • Maternal Health Research Collaborative for Minority-Serving Institutions: Up to $10 million is available to establish a network comprised of minority-serving institutions to conduct research addressing disparities in maternal mortality

On Monday, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will host a roundtable to address disparities in Black maternal and infant health, and highlight HHS actions to close the gap. The event is about Black maternal health outcomes, and it is organized by the HHS Partnership Center and will include experts and advocates from around the nation along with Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-02).

“HHS continues to take action to ensure Black mothers and their babies survive childbirth,” said Secretary Becerra. “One of the most significant actions we’ve taken is extending postpartum coverage under Medicaid from 60 days to 12 months in more than half of states across the nation. There are still more states and territories that need to take advantage of this opportunity, and HHS won’t rest until women in every state have continuous access to medical care throughout the postpartum period. During Black Maternal Health Week and every week, HHS will continue its work to ensure safer pregnancies.”

On April 10th President Biden officially proclaimed April 11th through April 17, 2023, as Black Maternal Health Week to raise awareness of the state of Black maternal health in the United States. Addressing Black maternal health has been a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. Recognizing that the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations, and disproportionately high rates which are 2.5-3 times higher for Black and American Indian and Alaska Native women compared to non-Hispanic whites, the Biden-Harris Administration produced a Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. One of the priority actions called for in the blueprint is ensuring comprehensive, continuous maternal health insurance coverage during pregnancy, and for no less than one year afterwards. Approximately 42% of births are covered by Medicaid, but historically people with Medicaid lost postpartum coverage 60 days after the end of pregnancy. During the Biden-Harris Administration, HHS has for the first time approved extension of Medicaid postpartum benefits to 12 months, and to date 31 states plus the District of Columbia have been granted this extension, which aims to reduce the rate of maternal morbidity and mortality, including significant health disparities for Black women during the postpartum period.

The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2024 includes $471 million to support ongoing implementation of the blueprint and reduce maternal mortality and morbidity rates; expand maternal health initiatives in rural communities; implement implicit bias training for healthcare providers; create pregnancy medical home demonstration projects; and address the highest rates of perinatal health disparities, including by supporting the perinatal health workforce. The Budget requires all States to provide continuous Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum, eliminating gaps in health insurance at a critical time. Because maternal mental health conditions are the most common complications of pregnancy and childbirth, the Budget continues to support the maternal mental health hotline as well as screening and treatment for maternal depression and related behavioral disorders. In addition, the Budget strengthens collection and evaluation of sociodemographic data.

The FY 2024 budget includes $1.9 billion for HRSA Maternal and Child Health programs. Within this total, the budget directs $276 million towards reducing maternal mortality and morbidity and $185 million for the Healthy Start program to reduce racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.

The FY 2024 budget also provides funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue the Implementing a Maternal Health and Pregnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) initiative to support research focused on interventions to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity and address risk factors that contribute to health disparities in maternal care. In addition, the FY 2024 budget includes $3 million for NIH’s continued research on the effects of COVID-19 on individuals during pregnancy, lactation, and during the postpartum period.

Other actions HHS has taken to promote maternal and postpartum care

During Black Maternal Health Week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) participated in an event “Birthing While Black: Black Maternal Health Policy Discussions with CMS Administrator Brooks LaSure”, joining the men’s basketball team at Howard University in Washington, DC, one of the nation’s leading Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The Administrator’s conversation with students was centered around their advocacy, education, and volunteerism in addition to CMS and Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to address this crisis. The team has advocated throughout the past year for protecting Black maternal health and reducing pregnancy-related complications, including recently joining Secretary Becerra for a community service event to support maternal health.

On April 11, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, CDC’s Dr. Wanda Barfield, Director of the Division of Reproductive Health within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, and Monifa Bandele, Chief Strategy Officer, MomsRising, lifted up International Day for Maternal Health and Rights and Black Maternal Health Week by participating in a digital conversation and Q&A to amplify Black women’s voices and center the values and traditions of the reproductive and birth justice movements. Through sharing stories and lived experiences, the conversation highlighted the Black maternal health crisis, including maternal mortality rates and rates of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), part of NIH, continues to help advance the IMPROVE initiative and also plans to establish Maternal Health Research Centers of Excellence, issuing awards starting this summer. Awardees will work collaboratively to design and implement research projects to address the biological, behavioral, environmental, sociocultural, and structural factors that affect maternal morbidity and mortality in populations that experience health disparities.

In addition, NIH is accepting public comment until April 21, 2023 on a draft report titled “Maternal Mortality Is Preventable: An NIH Pathways to Prevention Panel Report Transforming the Prevention Paradigm”, which calls for a “Maternal Mortality Moonshot” with the goal of a “fifty percent or more reduction in preventable maternal mortality and an elimination of racial/ethnic group disparities over the next 10 years.” 

Next month, NIH will host “Innovative Approaches to Improve Maternal Health” to bring together technology developers, medical device experts, small business innovators, implementation scientists, researchers, and academic, industry, and community-based partners. The goal is to connect the research community with small businesses that are developing new approaches to maternal morbidity and mortality and associated health disparities.


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