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Pittsburgh nonprofits to receive $1 million grant to reduce maternal deaths and narrow disparities

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) and its operating organization the Women's Health Activist Movement Global (WHAMglobal) are excited to announce the launch of Pittsburgh: A Safer Childbirth City, an initiative that aims to transform the city into a safer, more equitable and accessible place to give birth.

Bringing together community organizations and government partners, JHF will coordinate a $1 million, multi-year grant to help address disparities in maternal health. The collaborative of local nonprofits will work to improve coordination and quality of care among Pittsburgh service providers, train midwives and other health professionals, and support the local maternal health movement. Through this grant, Pittsburgh joins nine other cities across the country as part of the inaugural cohort of the Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative created by Merck for Mothers to foster local solutions that help cities become safer – and more equitable – places to give birth.

The city of Pittsburgh has seen tremendous development over the past 20 years, but serious health inequities and disparities persist, especially in the field of maternal and child health. Fortunately, Pittsburgh's health and human services network is strong, with organizations well positioned to fill crucial gaps in services and address social determinants of health. There is community consensus that in order to improve maternal and child health, organizational efforts need to be coordinated.

The initiative's guiding principle is that women need to be informed and supported in making their own decisions based on values, beliefs, and preferences. There is a need to stop taking power away from women in childbirth. Women don't need to be empowered — they need to be present and listened to when it comes to transforming the maternity care system for quality, equitable, and unbiased care. Pittsburgh: A Safer Childbirth City recognizes the importance of collaborating and listening to mothers and their families to address Pittsburgh's disparities in maternal health outcomes build a better future for moms in Pittsburgh.

WHAMglobal has engaged a representative Regional Advisory in the development of the initiative that includes many community-based organizations. In addition to the Regional Advisory, initial partners for the initiative include Allegheny Health Department's Maternal and Child Health Programs, American College of Nurse-Midwives (Pennsylvania Affiliate), Heinz Endowments, Jewish Women's Foundation of Greater Pittsburgh, National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh, and Healthy Start, Inc.

Healthy Start, Inc. has served Allegheny County for 28 years, and faced many of the challenges confronting mothers across the region.

Members of the Pittsburgh: A Safer Childbirth City advisory meet at the QIT Center.

"We are enthusiastic about the initiative's goals to improve maternal health outcomes for all women across our city. Healthy Start's commitment is centered on the belief that when we focus on those who are most impacted—which in our region is black women and babies—everyone benefits." said Jada Shirriel, MS, CLC, Chief Executive Officer of Healthy Start, Inc. "As such, we are committed to reducing disparities and striving toward birth equity by elevating community voices and lived experience and by fostering effective collaboration between community and clinical stakeholders."

Pittsburgh: A Safer Childbirth City will focus on four distinct areas: care delivery model redesign and systems change; workforce innovation and training; community activation and local movement building; and community engagement and volunteerism. The program will build on lessons from its first two years, including best practices from other global systems and a strong focus on evaluation and rapid quality improvement.

In 2017, the Pittsburgh-based Jewish Healthcare Foundation launched a supporting non-profit organization, the Women's Health Activist Movement Global (WHAMglobal), to focus on improving maternal and child health outcomes in the Pittsburgh region. Since this time, WHAMglobal has built a network of maternal health advocates, helped launch and manage the Pennsylvania Perinatal Quality Collaborative, the action arm of Pennsylvania's Maternal Mortality Review Committee, and convened a regional symposium on maternal health leadership. This new grant expands on WHAMglobal's work and strengthens the connections between clinical care and community-based initiatives. 

"Expanding WHAMglobal's maternal health work through the Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative is the logical next step for all the work we've been doing over the past two and a half years," said Karen Wolk Feinstein, President and CEO of JHF. "The collaborative nature of the initiative, combined with its on-the-ground local community engagement, workforce development, and best practice sharing components advances all of our ongoing efforts."

"We're thrilled to add Pittsburgh as our tenth grantee. Through the Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative, including here in Pittsburgh, our intent is to support projects that are tailored to the needs of pregnant women in their respective city and can have a play a pivotal role in helping women have safe pregnancies and deliveries," said Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, Lead and Executive Director of Merck for Mothers.

The vision for the Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative is to foster local solutions that help cities become safer – and more equitable – places to give birth. It is supported by Merck for Mothers*, Merck's $500 million initiative to help create a world where no woman has to die giving life. For the inaugural class, Safer Childbirth Cities will also be co-funded with the Burke Foundation, The Nicholson Foundation, the Community Health Acceleration Partnership, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Rhia Ventures, and others.

The nine other grantees are located in Atlanta, Baltimore, Camden, Chicago, Columbus, Jackson, Newark, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. To learn more, visit SaferChildbirthCities.com.

*Merck for Mothers is known as MSD for Mothers outside the United States and Canada.

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