Morehouse School of Medicine Awarded Grant Focused on Improving Maternal Health Outcomes

The school’s Center for Maternal Health Equity to receive over $2 million as part of a White House initiative.

By Donovan Thomas, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Morehouse School of Medicine has been awarded a grant by the Health Resources and Services Administration to support work to improve maternal health outcomes in underserved communities around Georgia.

The award is part of a $90 million White House plan that seeks to address the country’s maternal health crisis by combating maternal mortality and improving maternal and infant health. Morehouse is receiving one of the Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Research Collaborative grants. The award is scheduled to last five years and is worth nearly $2.3 million, according to Morehouse School of Medicine.

The Health Resources and Services Administration is hoping to reverse the trend by taking several steps: Expanding access to maternal care; growing the maternal care workforce; supporting moms experiencing maternal depression; and addressing social supports needed for safe pregnancies, said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson in a press release.

“We know it will take a sustained approach to reduce and eliminate maternal health disparities and we are committed to this work.”

In Georgia, data shows that pregnant women and infants continue to have poorer health outcomes than most of the nation, reflecting racial inequities and conditions worsened by the pandemic.

For infant mortality, Georgia’s rate of 6.1 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 2021 exceeded the national rate of 5.4 deaths per 1,000. Broken down by race, 10.8 Black babies per 1,000 died, twice as many as Hispanic babies at 5.4 per 1,000. The death rate per thousand for white babies was 4.9, and 4.2 for Asian/Pacific Islander babies.

Georgia’s preterm birth rate of 11.9% for 2021 was higher than the national rate of 10.5% and the highest for the state since 2007. Black women in Georgia had their babies prematurely at a rate of 14.7%, which was 47% higher than that of all other women in the state.

“Georgia has one of the worst rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in the US, especially for people of color. In addition, a third of the counties in Georgia are considered maternity care deserts due to a lack of healthcare providers,” said Center for Maternal Health Equity Executive Director Dr. Natalie Hernandez-Green.

“This new funding from the federal government will allow the Center to expand on our vital work to eradicate this disparity and dramatically improve health outcomes for pregnant and postpartum people in urban and rural areas throughout the state — a community-based approach that serves as a model to other communities nationwide.”

Maternal mortality measurements

Maternal mortality is measured as a ratio: the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This is Georgia’s maternal mortality rate over time. Data for maternal mortality is usually poor, but these numbers were determined by intensive investigation into case files by a state committee of experts. Experts caution that if investigative tools improve, the data may rise for that reason.

The majority of pregnancy-related deaths don’t happen in childbirth; they happen in the weeks and months after the patient gives birth.

Georgia’s Maternal Mortality Ratio
2012-2015: 28 per 100,000 live births
2015-2017: 25.1
2018-2020: 30.2

Maternal Mortality in Racial/Ethnic groups
Non-Hispanic white: 23.3 per 100,000 live births
Non-Hispanic Black: 48.6

 Source: Georgia Department of Public Health

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