HHS Issues Challenges to Find Best Practices in Maternal Health

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health has announced two challenges to improve maternal health. The first challenge will address care for women with hypertension who are pregnant and/or postpartum, while the second challenge will address breastfeeding initiation and continuation disparities among breastfeeding mothers. The partnership will bridge data gaps in maternal health outcomes across the country.

HHS Hypertension Innovator Award Competition: Innovative Methods of Blood Pressure Monitoring and Follow-up in Women during Pregnancy and/or Postpartum.

The $3.3 million dollar competition will identify pre-existing programs that care for women with hypertension who are pregnant and/or postpartum. The competition looks for programs that provide effective monitoring and follow-up to improve rates of hypertension control.

“I issued a Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Control Hypertension urging Americans to recognize and address hypertension control as a national, public health priority,” said Surgeon General VADM Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “We’ve seen how costly and dangerous uncontrolled hypertension can be for all Americans, but the impact is extremely critical for women who are pregnant and/or postpartum. We must ensure that women with and at risk for hypertension receive optimal care, including support for self-monitoring, in order to control high blood pressure before, during, and after pregnancy. Achieving control of hypertension will help women live longer, healthier lives.”

In the United States, high blood pressure affects in one in every 12 to 17 pregnancies among women ages 20 to 44. In addition, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which were responsible for one in three pregnancy-related deaths from 2011 – 2015.

“Women’s hearts work harder than normal during pregnancy. Having hypertension adds stress to the body and significantly increases the risk of pregnancy complications,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health and Director of the Office on Women’s Health, Dorothy Fink, M.D. “The hypertension challenge will align with the Surgeon General’s recent Hypertension Call to Action and help us identify existing programs that show promise for women during pregnancy and after giving birth.”

HHS Reducing Disparities in Breastfeeding Innovation Challenge

The $800,000 competition will identify effective, pre-existing programs that increase breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates and decrease disparities among breastfeeding mothers in the United States. This competition seeks programs that target gaps in breastfeeding education, instruction, and/or support for breastfeeding mothers.

“Although the conversation on breastfeeding has traditionally focused on the nutritional benefits for the baby, more studies show that breastfeeding also has health benefits for new moms,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health and Director of the Office on Women’s Health, Dorothy Fink, M.D. “Breastfeeding can lower the risk of hypertension along with the risks of diabetes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer. We want more mothers to understand this connection and have the necessary tools to successfully start and continue breastfeeding their babies.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies are breastfed exclusively for about 6 months, and then continue to be breastfeed and introduced complementary foods until one year of age or longer. According to CDC, only one in four infants is exclusively breastfed until they are 6 months old. Recent data shows African American mothers have lower breastfeeding rates and black infants are 15% less likely to have ever been breastfed compared with other racial/ethnic groups.

Both the hypertension and breastfeeding challenges are divided into three phases. Phase 1 will identify effective programs that can successfully target gaps and disparities. Phase 2 will demonstrate that programs can be adapted and applied to more women resulting in positive outcomes. Phase 3 will evaluate whether the programs were successfully replicated and/or expanded. The deadline for Phase 1 of both challenges is November 16, 2020.

To learn more about the HHS Hypertension Innovator Award Competition please visit: https://www.challenge.gov/challenge/hhs-hypertension-innovator-award-competition/

To learn more about the HHS Reducing Disparities in Breastfeeding Innovation Challenge please visit: https://www.challenge.gov/challenge/reducing-disparities-breastfeeding-innovation-challenge/

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