Pennsylvania Launches Grant Program to Combat Maternal Mortality, Focuses on Community-Based Solutions

PregnantImage by Manuel Alejandro Leon

HARRISBURG, PA — The Department of Health recently announced the availability of grants aimed at fostering regional coalitions dedicated to improving maternal health. This initiative, backed by Governor Josh Shapiro’s administration, marks a pioneering state-funded effort to tackle a problem that has seen a troubling rise nationwide.

With an allocation of up to $1.8 million from the 2023-24 state budget, community-based organizations are now invited to apply for funding to support the creation and operation of regional coalitions. These groups will be tasked with implementing strategies derived from the 2024 Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) report, focusing on actionable recommendations to enhance maternal health outcomes locally.

The urgency of this initiative is underscored by alarming statistics: In 2020, Pennsylvania recorded 83 pregnancy-associated deaths per 100,000 live births, translating to 107 lives lost during pregnancy, delivery, or within the first year postpartum. Notably, Black women face nearly twice the risk of dying during or after pregnancy compared to their white counterparts, highlighting a significant health equity issue.

Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Debra Bogen emphasized the critical nature of the problem and the administration’s commitment to addressing it. “Maternal mortality is far too common, and disproportionately impacts Black women and their families,” Bogen stated. The formation of regional coalitions represents a strategic approach to translate the MMRC’s recommendations into practical, life-saving interventions within communities.

This grant program is part of a broader investment by Governor Shapiro’s administration in combating maternal mortality. The current year’s budget includes $2.3 million for studying and implementing MMRC recommendations, with an additional $2.7 million proposed for the 2024-25 budget to further these efforts, particularly focusing on the disparities affecting Black mothers.

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The newly established Division of Maternal Health Services within the Department of Health’s Bureau of Family Health will oversee the MMRC and the disbursement of grant funds, ensuring a coordinated and effective response to this pressing public health challenge.

Community-based organizations interested in contributing to this vital work are encouraged to attend an optional pre-application conference on April 15. Applications for the grant must be submitted by April 30, with funding agreements expected to run from July 1, 2024, to June 30, 2027, contingent upon the availability of funds.

This initiative represents a proactive step toward safeguarding maternal health in Pennsylvania, focusing on community engagement and the implementation of evidence-based solutions. By mobilizing local resources and knowledge, the state aims to make significant strides in reducing maternal mortality rates and addressing the stark disparities that persist in healthcare outcomes.

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