Childbirth in the United States can at times be dangerous, compared with other developed nations. Roughly every 12 hours a woman dies from pregnancy-related causes, and 60% of these causes are preventable.
These alarming statistics are why Elevance Health and its affiliated health plans, whose members account for more than 10% of the nation’s births, is at the forefront of improving maternal and infant health, especially in communities of color where health disparities have a dramatic impact on outcomes.
In Fresno County, California, for example, the pre-term birth rate for Black women is more than 64% higher than for white women. Together with Black Infant Health (BIH), a longstanding pillar in supporting Black women's maternal health, a community-based doula organization, and guidance from other organizations, we built a unique, collaborative program to begin to address these alarming disparities.
With this tightly woven, community-based care matrix, nearly all of the women who have taken part in the program delivered babies at full term.
“In my earlier pregnancies I didn’t have the preparation or help,” said Tasheana Scott, a health plan member and program participant. “Having access to a doula made me feel more empowered to ask the right questions and helped me get the support I needed. I delivered my son full term at the end of the program and he’s thriving.”
Bridging Racial Disparities Affecting Pregnant Women
Fueled by our commitment to address health disparities across our nation, the Elevance Health Foundation is working hand-in-hand with community partners to drive change. Over the past decade, the Foundation has contributed close to $8 million to March of Dimes, the leader in the fight for the health of moms and babies. The programs we support have reached more than 50,000 pregnant women across the country, with only 7% of participants delivering prematurely, compared to a national average of 10%.
"The U.S. is in the midst of a maternal and infant health crisis, which is particularly devastating to women and babies of color. The causes of the crisis are complex, but we do know it includes implicit bias among healthcare providers. In partnership with Elevance Health, we’re working to address institutionalized racism in the healthcare system and training providers to not perpetuate the cycles of discrimination to ultimately improve the level of care that moms and babies deserve,” says Dr. Rahul Gupta, chief medical and health officer, senior vice president and interim chief scientific officer at March of Dimes.
In 2020, Elevance Health Foundation and March of Dimes joined forces to expand a training program across 16 states and Washington, D.C. called “Breaking Through Implicit Bias in Maternal Healthcare.” The course provides an overview of implicit bias, its impact on the maternal infant health crisis, and the history of structural racism in the United States. The program also offers strategies for providers to mitigate racial bias in maternity care and to cultivate a culture of equity. Through this program, our trained providers cared for more than 15,000 moms in 2020.
Reducing Infant Mortality through Public Health Education
Every year in the U.S. 24,000 babies are stillborn – 1 out of every 167 pregnancies. For Black moms, that number is even more alarming: 1 in 94. Better prenatal training is a preventive action that can significantly help reduce infant mortality.
Count the Kicks and Amerigroup Medicaid in Iowa have partnered for years to empower and educate expectant women about preventing stillbirth by monitoring fetal movement in the third trimester. “We truly believe Amerigroup contributed to the lowest stillbirth rate on record for the state of Iowa,” said Emily Price, executive director of the nonprofit Healthy Birth Day, Inc.
A unit of Healthy Birth Day, Inc., Count the Kicks developed a public health campaign that is credited with reducing Iowa’s stillbirth rate by nearly 32% over 10 years. And this past year, Amerigroup partnered with the organization to expand its reach and spark important conversations between moms and care providers. By collaborating with social service agencies, hospital systems, and local and state public health agencies, Amerigroup and Count the Kicks expect to educate and empower more than 38,000 expectant Iowa women through the middle of 2021 to save more babies from preventable stillbirth.
“Amerigroup is a game changer when it comes to improving the health of moms and babies in Iowa,” Emily continued. “Beyond financial sponsorship, Amerigroup case managers work directly with expectant parents, collaboratively providing the education and resources they need to take action if they notice a change in their baby’s movements.”
Lindsey Frandsen is one of these moms. Because of her participation in the program, she was able to notice warning signs that required her to deliver early and get the intervention she needed to deliver a healthy baby girl.
“Knowing what’s normal for your baby can make all the difference. I tell my friends and then my friends tell their family members,” Lindsey said.