March of Dimes, the nation’s leader in the fight for the health of all moms and babies, and The Humana Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Humana Inc. are working together to address the racial disparities and social determinants of health that contribute to the U.S. maternal and infant health crisis. March of Dimes and The Humana Foundation will support communities across the U.S. in building cross-sector alliances that alleviate social and structural systems of inequities and implementing solutions that improve maternal and infant health. By sharing local data and best practices, March of Dimes will create a national network of support that can help drive systemic change to end the health equity gap affecting moms and babies across the country.
The Humana Foundation invested $3 million in this partnership as part of its $50 million commitment to providing immediate and long-term relief and recovery to communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The initiative will focus on six communities across the U.S. where Humana and The Humana Foundation are already working together with partners to improve health and well-being.
“Our fight to end maternal and infant mortality and morbidity cannot be achieved without closing the health equity gap,” said Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO at March of Dimes. “Through this partnership with The Humana Foundation, we will take action to support system changes that lead to real measurable improvements in health, as well as a fair and just opportunity for health for all moms and babies.”
The U.S. remains among the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth—especially for communities of color. 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 affects not only health care, but also social determinants of overall health (i.e. access to food, education, housing, jobs). These factors, together with the direct experience of racial discrimination and unequal treatment, built and continue to build a health equity gap that is directly and negatively impacting moms and babies of color.
“The COVID-19 health crisis exposed needs that the most vulnerable among us were experiencing before the pandemic began and has intensified those needs, especially for those disproportionately affected by the virus,” said Walter D. Woods, CEO of The Humana Foundation. “By addressing social determinants of health and systemic racial inequity, we hope to close the health equity gap for mothers and children across the country.”
Using The Humana Foundation’s investment, March of Dimes will build partnerships with local public and private organizations that leverage Collective Impact, a proven approach for solving complex societal challenges, to improve maternal and infant health within a community. To begin, partners will identify and align on the underlying causes and systems challenges that negatively affect moms and babies locally. They will then build a common agenda and deploy evidence-based strategies to address these factors and drive improved, measurable health outcomes. March of Dimes will provide these communities with technical assistance and targeted interventions, such as access to its prenatal and NICU education initiatives and professional education, such as implicit bias training.
March of Dimes’ Mom & Baby Action Network, a consortium of national partners dedicated to addressing inequities in maternal and infant health, will serve as the national backbone of support for these local communities. Bringing the Network and communities together online and/or in-person will create a system of support and information sharing to disseminate best practices that can encourage other communities to join in this initiative and scale up systemic change to eliminate the health equity gap.
March of Dimes Health Equity Initiatives
March of Dimes has been at the forefront of the fight for health equity for decades by championing policies, building awareness of the issues, funding research and providing programs and resources to help achieve parity in maternal and child health. It is committed to leveling the playing field and working in the following areas of impact:
- Improving access to care: March of Dimes ensures the best possible start for parents-to-be and their babies by providing access to care, in-person and online education. Prenatal Education, Support and Care initiatives address social determinants of health by partnering with providers to implement culturally relevant, skills-based learning experiences before and during pregnancy. NICU Initiatives provide education for NICU staff and empower, educate and support families to help improve the patient experience and health outcomes for NICU babies.
- Training providers to tackle bias: Implicit bias and stigma experienced by patients coupled with institutional racism, partly contributes to the disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. This year, March of Dimes launched an implicit bias training for providers to uncover institutionalized racism in the health care system and training health care workers not to perpetuate the cycles of discrimination. In addition, the Beyond Labels website was created as a resource to raise awareness of stigma and work to help eliminate these disparities by addressing the root causes.
- Advocating for policies that promote safe and healthy communities: March of Dimes has a robust federal and state advocacy agenda and network focused on systemic solutions to health inequity. Join our Advocacy Action Center to add your voice to the thousands of March of Dimes advocates calling for policies that promote the health of women, children and families.
“Disparities in birth outcomes matter to everyone—as the strength of communities lies in the health of its people and begins with moms and babies,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Chief Medical and Health Officer, Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Scientific Officer at March of Dimes. “Our work is centered on a vision where every mom and baby is healthy, regardless of race, geography or income and health care is just and equal. We hope you join us in this vital work to end the health equity gap.”