WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced nearly $350 million in awards to every state across the nation to support safe pregnancies and healthy babies. Funding will expand home visiting services to families most in need, increase access to doulas, address health disparities in infant deaths, and improve data reporting on maternal mortality. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded these funds.
“As a father, I know there’s nothing more important than the health and well-being of the mother and baby,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “These investments are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to promote maternal and infant health, and ensure equitable access to affordable, quality health care for our nation’s families. Together, all of the programs we’re funding… will help families get off to a better, healthier start.”
America’s maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the developed world, and they are especially high among Black women and Native American women— regardless of their income or education levels. HHS state that the actions are part of the critical work this Administration is doing to address the maternal health crisis, close maternal and infant health disparities, and address the systemic racism and other factors that have allowed these inequities to exist.
“We know that many mothers and their children don’t receive the care they need to stay healthy throughout their lives,” said Acting HRSA Administrator Diana Espinosa. “These programs allow us to better tackle the root causes of these challenges and improve access to care for pregnant women, parents, and infants.”
HRSA is making these key investments through the following maternal and child health programs:
- The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program: The MIECHV program is awarding $342 million in funding to 56 states, jurisdictions, and nonprofit organizations. Building upon the $40 million in emergency home visiting funds awarded through the American Rescue Plan in May 2021, these funds will support communities to provide critical services. Home visitors provide pregnancy education, parenting skill-building, and even offer supplies such as diapers, wipes and hand sanitizers. They also help families secure food, housing and other support services. Decades of scientific research show that home visiting programs are effective and evidence-based programs that make a difference for the families and communities they serve.
- The Healthy Start Initiative: The Healthy Start initiative supports communities where the infant mortality rate is 1.5 times the national average. By working with women during pregnancy and after giving birth, these projects help reduce infant death and severe maternal illness. Every Healthy Start project has a Community Action Network composed of neighborhood residents, community leaders, consumers, medical and social service providers, faith-based leaders, and business representatives who know their community’s needs best. This supplemental funding in particular supports:
- Community-Based Doulas: More than $3 million in supplemental funding has been awarded to 25 Healthy Start grantees to increase the availability of doulas. Funding will cover the costs of training, certifying, and compensating doulas. Research shows that doulas support better health outcomes.
- Infant Health Equity: More than $1.6 million in supplemental funding has been awarded to 21 Healthy Start grantees to help reduce disparities in infant mortality in regional areas with the highest numbers of non-Hispanic Black or non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native infant deaths. Awardees will use the funding to create local action plans with data-driven policy and strategies. These plans will incorporate input from community members, consumers, and participants tailored to the unique needs of their populations. The expectation is that these strategies will look beyond the medical factors of health outcomes to address conditions that affect infant mortality disparities in their counties, such as poverty, education, housing, and nutrition.
- State Systems Developmental Initiative (SSDI): Approximately $600,000 in supplemental funding has been awarded to 10 grantees already participating in the SSDI program. The supplemental funding will expand the capacity of states and jurisdictions to collect and report timely, high quality maternal health data to support health care quality improvement activities, with a specific focus on the collection and use of data on race, ethnicity, and social determinants of health.
For a list of MIECHV awardees, visit: https://mchb.hrsa.gov/maternal-child-health-initiatives/home-visiting/fy21-awards.
For a list of Healthy Start awardees, visit: https://mchb.hrsa.gov/maternal-child-health-initiatives/healthy-start/fy21-awards.
For a list of SSDI awardees, visit: https://mchb.hrsa.gov/maternal-child-health-initiatives/systems-development-fy21-awards.
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