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HHS Announces Over $20 Million in Awards to Reduce Disparities in Maternal and Infant Health

Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced investments of over $20 million to improve maternal and infant health and implement the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. Funding aims to help reduce disparities in maternal and birth outcomes, expand and diversify the workforce caring for pregnant and postpartum individuals, increase access to obstetrics care in rural communities, and support states in tackling inequities in maternal and infant health.

“Today, Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause in this country than White women. That has to change,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “To make meaningful change, we need to center our work on the individuals and families we are serving, and that is what today’s investments aim to do. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to prioritizing equity and reducing the unacceptable disparities in maternal and infant health. Through these awards, we are taking additional action to implement the Blueprint that the President and Vice President have laid out for driving impactful solutions and providing our nation’s families with the support and resources they need to lead healthy lives.”

About 700 people die each year during pregnancy or in the year after. Thousands of women each year have unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery with serious short- or long-term health consequences. Rural populations tend to have worse maternal health outcomes than individuals living in urban areas, and there are disparities experienced by racial and ethnic groups.

HRSA awards include:

  • Supporting State-led Maternal Health Innovation: HRSA is awarding $9 million to 9 grantees through its State Maternal Health Innovation Program to create state-led maternal health task forces bringing the voices of key leaders and pregnant and postpartum individuals together and using state-specific maternal health data to develop and use innovative approaches to address the most pressing maternal health needs and address disparities in health outcomes. Innovations cover four categories: provision of direct clinical care, workforce training, maternal health data enhancements, and community engagement.
  • Improving Maternal Care in Rural Communities: HRSA is awarding approximately $4 million to 4 awardees through its Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies Program to improve maternal care in rural communities by building care networks that coordinate care needs for pregnant individuals; leveraging telehealth and specialty care to better support care needs; and improving financial sustainability of these services in rural communities. Awardees will work to address unmet needs, which may include underlying health risks, health disparities, and other inequities.
    • Avera Health in South Dakota is one of the awardees. This grant will help provide services the counties of: Brown, Davison, Grant, Hughes, Hutchinson, and Yankton.
  • Increasing Access to Community-based Doulas: HRSA is awarding approximately $3 million to 19 Healthy Start programs to increase the availability of doula services in the communities they serve. The Healthy Start program supports community-based strategies to reduce disparities in infant mortality and improve perinatal outcomes for pregnant and postpartum individuals and their children in areas most affected by infant and maternal mortality. This funding will cover training and compensation for doulas, who provide services to women during pregnancy, birth, and post-partum.
  • Addressing Infant Mortality: HRSA is awarding $4.5 million to 9 grantees through its Catalyst for Infant Health Equity Program to reduce infant mortality disparities. These funds will support action plans that focus on improving community systems and services that influence health outcomes. Activities include coordination of services to address housing and housing stability management; workforce development and training to address implicit bias; and education and outreach to help community members support maternal and infant health.

HHS is committed to supporting safe pregnancies and childbirth, eliminating pregnancy-related health disparities, and improving health outcomes for parents and infants across our country. As part of this work, HRSA also continues to conduct analysis of the workforce needs to address these critical issues.

Learn more about HHS’s efforts to strengthen maternal health.

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