August 10, 2020

March of Dimes, the leader in the fight for the health of all moms and babies, and longtime partner Anthem Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc., today announced a $1.1 million grant with their latest plans to tackle America’s maternal and infant health crisis, which is particularly devastating for communities of color. The partnership aims to close the health equity gap by addressing the racial disparities and social determinants of health that have disproportionally impacted Black mothers who are more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes and have premature babies compared to all other women.

The new grant will support programs in 16 states and Washington D.C with a core component of the grant focusing on health equity partnerships with more than 20 hospitals, which includes Breaking Through Implicit Bias in Maternal Healthcare training. According to the 2003 National Academies for Science, Engineering and Medicine, “racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive a lower quality of healthcare than non-minorities, even when access-related factors, such as patients’ insurance status and income, are controlled.” In response, March of Dimes developed this training, in collaboration with Quality Interactions, to improve patient-provider communications and treatment decisions, contributing to improved quality of care at a critical intervention point. The course provides an overview of implicit bias, its impact on the maternal infant health crisis, history of structural racism in the United States, strategies for providers to both mitigate racial bias in maternity care and to commit to a culture of equity.

The grant will also support programs for moms and babies, such as Supportive Pregnancy Care and interconception care.  Through Supportive Pregnancy Care, pregnant women receive their clinical care, share support with other women at a similar stage in pregnancy, and gain knowledge and skills related to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. Interconception care programs help new moms to get information and services that promote birth spacing, smoking cessation, and mental health. 

“The U.S. is in the midst of a maternal and infant health crisis, which is particularly devastating to women and babies of color. Data show that the U.S. remains among the most dangerous developed nations in the world for childbirth,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Chief Medical and Health Officer, Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Scientific Officer at March of Dimes. “Roughly every 12 hours a woman dies from pregnancy-related causes, and the CDC reports that 60 percent are preventable.  Programs like these, supported by the Anthem Foundation, are invaluable in making a positive impact for moms and babies.”

In the U.S. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes and Black babies are twice as likely to die before their first birthdays compared to their White counterparts. Systemic racial injustice has affected not only health care, but also social determinants of health, such as  access to food, education, housing and jobs. These factors, together with the direct experience of racial discrimination and unequal treatment, have built a health equity gap that is directly and negatively impacting moms and babies of color.

“Anthem and its Foundation continue to lead with our commitment to improving lives and communities across our nation,” said Razia Hashmi, MD, MPH, Vice President for Commercial Clinical Operations at Anthem. “For over 10 years, our partnership with March of Dimes has provided over 47,000 individuals with access to care. We are working tirelessly to create enduring change in communities across the country, and addressing the factors driving disparities in our health system and in society as a whole.”

Over the past decade, Anthem Foundation has contributed close to $8 million to support March of Dimes programs aimed at reducing premature birth across the country. These programs have had a significant impact with only 7.3 percent of participants in group prenatal care delivering prematurely, compared to a national average of 10 percent.