Grants will support programs that address maternal health outcome disparities, access to health care services and intimate partner violence.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (June 30, 2021) – Optum, a leading health services company and part of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), has awarded $1.4 million in maternal health grants and will provide pro bono services to five community organizations aimed at improving maternal health outcomes and increasing health care access for underserved populations.
“Optum is committed to addressing the nation’s maternal health crisis, which is having a significant impact on underserved and vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Janice Huckaby, chief medical officer, Maternal-Child Health, Optum. “By partnering with organizations deeply rooted in the communities they serve, we help improve the health of mothers and newborns and raise awareness about the importance of maternal health and racial disparities in health care.”
The five community organizations awarded grants include:
- Community of Hope - based in Washington, D.C.; $500,000 to serve more pregnant women – primarily persons of color and low-income – in their comprehensive, community-centered maternal and infant health program.
- Wake Forest Baptist Health – based in Winston Salem, North Carolina; $200,000 to create a program that will identify, in clinics and upon hospital admission, pregnant women suffering from intimate partner violence, to provide support and resources.
- Cradle Cincinnati – based in Cincinnati, Ohio; $400,000 to reduce preterm births among Black women by expanding Cradle Cincinnati’s infant mortality reduction strategy to other cities in the United States
- Ladies of Hope Ministries (LOHM) – based in New York City; $200,000 to provide doula training, certification and birth support for current and formerly incarcerated pregnant women.
- Morehouse School of Medicine – based in Atlanta; $95,000 to support research to gain a better understanding of “Maternal Near Miss (MNM)” among Black women. A MNM is when a woman nearly dies, but survives, from a complication during pregnancy or childbirth, or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy. The study will recruit and interview 120 women who represent underserved markets including Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
“We’re grateful for the support of Optum and their belief in our bold and necessary vision to provide high-quality, culturally competent support to currently and previously incarcerated women that will meet the unique needs to address the inequities faced in their experiences with menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care,” said Topeka K. Sam, founder and executive director of the LOHM, and period equity advocate.
“Community of Hope is thrilled to partner with Optum on our comprehensive maternal and child health programs serving families in under-resourced neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.,” said Kelly Sweeney McShane, president and CEO of Community of Hope. “Optum’s support allows us to provide direct services, dig deeper on the impact of our approach, develop strategies to ensure financially sustainable funding, and communicate our approach so that others may replicate across the nation as needed.”
“We are excited about this partnership with Optum to lift up and center Black and other women of color to share their stories about Maternal Near Miss events,” said Natalie Hernandez, Ph.D., interim director, Center for Maternal Health Equity Morehouse School of Medicine. “Understanding the needs of women who have had these experiences is the key to reducing their burden, advancing maternal health equity and addressing maternal mortality.”
The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of all developed countries and is the only industrialized nation with a rising rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60% of pregnancy-related deaths are thought to be preventable, and patients of color face the greatest risk of death and complication. Multiple factors contribute to these disparities, including variation in quality health care, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism and implicit bias.
These grants are part of several initiatives by Optum and its parent company, UnitedHealth Group, to address maternal health outcomes and disparities across the United States, including a $3 million contribution to help improve access to prenatal care in underserved communities in New York and a $2.6 million grant in Nevada to reduce maternal health disparities and help grow the state’s OB-GYN and family medicine physician workforce. To date, UnitedHealth Group has provided more than $11 million in philanthropic grants to support maternal health. Optum’s goal is to build a fully connected health system that works for everyone, creating a world where every person has the opportunity to reach their full health potential.