PA Perinatal Quality Collaborative Heads Black Maternal Health Week Event

On April 15, the PA Perinatal Quality Collaborative, an initiative of Jewish Healthcare Foundation operating arm the Women's Health Activist Movement Global (WHAMglobal) partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) to present an event for Black Maternal Health Week, "Maternal Health, Birth, and Reproductive Justice." The event convened over 250 leaders in government, academia, and health care to discuss innovations and forward action towards creating equitable health care for birthing persons of color.

Doug Jacobs, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Innovation Officer of the PA Department of Human Services (DHS) welcomed attendees and commented on DHS's work to support Black maternal health with initiatives such as Regional Accountable Health Councils and an equity incentive program for managed care organizations.

La'Tasha D. Mayes, MSPPM, Member of the Governor's Commission on African American Affairs and President, Founder and CEO of New Voices for Reproductive Justice gave opening remarks. Mayes emphasized the importance of taking an intersectional approach and considering the effects of COVID-19, environmental issues, and violence on Black maternal health.

Carolyn Byrnes, MPH, CPH, Special Advisor to the Secretary of Health of PA DOH presented national and local data on maternal mortality. General trends point to a rise in pregnancy-associated deaths in PA in recent years, disproportionately so among non-Hispanic Black women. Many pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented, Byrnes noted.

Elizabeth Howell, MD, MPP, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania gave the keynote address. Dr. Howell shared information from research on how quality improvement interventions around maternal health care and practice in hospitals can improve maternal health outcomes and reduce racial/ethnic disparities. She described how individual hospitals can provide better, culturally appropriate care with interventions such as training on eliminating bias, enhancing communication, and engaging the community. Dr. Howell noted that the Maternal Mortality Review Information Application database could help provide recommendations on how to prevent events of bias and racism.

A panel of Black women leaders in maternal health followed, moderated by Denise Johnson, MD, Acting Physician General of the PA DOH. Panelists Ngozi Tibbs, Co-Founder of Pittsburgh Black Breastfeeding Circle; Joanne Craig, Chief Impact Officer of The Foundation for Delaware County; and Saleemah McNeil, CLC, MS, MFT, CEO of the Oshun Family Center shared perspectives on how mental health impacts their work, how their organizations work to address discrimination of maternal health patients, and the importance of listening to, uplifting, and making space for Black women/femme voices in maternal health care work.

Alison Beam, Acting Secretary of Health of PA DOH gave the closing address, thanking all participants and noting the increased energy around addressing racial/ethnic disparities in maternal health care.

A recording of the session is available here.

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