September 28, 2021

March of Dimes announces a $300,000 grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation to further its work with The Humana Foundation to improve the health of moms and babies. This funding will further work planned in Shreveport (Caddo Parish) and New Orleans (Orleans Parish) to help mobilize cross-sector partners to address health inequities fueled by racial disparities and limited access to quality health care.

This effort is part of a larger national and community-led initiative from March of Dimes, initially funded through a $3 million grant from The Humana Foundation. Together, these partners are working to reduce maternal mortality, maternal morbidity and preterm births in the U.S. and to close the health equity gap.

Louisiana is in the midst of a maternal and infant health crisis. The preterm birth rate in 2019 was 13.1%, earning the state an “F” grade in the 2020 March of Dimes Report Card. Additionally, New Orleans was among the top 10 U.S. cities with the highest rates of preterm birth. Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant mortality, and 456 babies died in Louisiana before their first birthday. These statistics are worse for moms and babies of color – with significant racial disparities cutting across maternal and infant health. In Louisiana, Black babies had the highest rates of infant mortality at 11.3 per 1,000 live births.

While there is no single cause to this complex crisis, contributing factors include limited access to affordable health care, barriers to economic security, preexisting conditions and inadequate prenatal care. In Louisiana, the Report Card showed that 15.2% of women receive inadequate prenatal care; 9.8% of women ages 15-44 are uninsured; and 24.5% of women ages 15-44 are in poverty. Systemic challenges with health care and deeply entrenched structural racism are fueling this health equity gap.

“We are proud to join with March of Dimes and funders like The Humana Foundation to find solutions to these complex challenges,” said Michael Tipton, President of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation. “Research shows that maternal health outcomes are some of the most important upstream influences in quality of life for children and families. It’s more important than ever to invest in changing these outcomes for the better.”

“The Humana Foundation is proud to partner with March of Dimes and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation to tackle the root-cause social determinants of maternal and infant health disparities,” said Heather Hyden, Senior Portfolio Officer at The Humana Foundation. “The multi-sector model created through this program will create significant improvements in the health outcomes of mothers and babies in locations where maternal and infant health is currently at crisis level.”

The grants from The Humana Foundation and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation to March of Dimes will help build the infrastructure and partnership required to support this multi-year effort in Shreveport and New Orleans. In each community, March of Dimes brings community members and public-private organizations together to align on the underlying challenges that negatively affect moms and babies locally and to build a plan for action. Then they will deploy strategies to address these factors and drive improved, measurable health outcomes. Email [email protected] to inquire how your organization can support these efforts.   

The partners are leveraging a proven approach of working with multi-sector stakeholders to solve intricate challenges, called Collective Impact, and are guided by five overarching strategies crucial to addressing health inequities:

  1. Dismantle racism and address unequal treatment 
  2. Increase access to quality health care 
  3. Promote environmental justice
  4. Strengthen economic security
  5. Build safe and connected communities 

“A challenge as complex as this maternal and infant health crisis requires the dedication and resources of cross-sector partners working together at the national, state and local levels,” said Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO of March of Dimes. “Only by working together can we ensure that every mom and baby is healthy regardless of wealth, race, gender or geography.”

A National and Community-Led Initiative for Healthy Moms and Babies

The U.S. remains among the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth and it’s even more dire for women and babies of color. In the U.S. two babies die every hour and two women die from pregnancy complications every day.

With support from The Humana Foundation, March of Dimes will extend its reach in six additional communities beyond Louisiana: Atlanta, GA (Fulton County); San Antonio, TX (Bexar County); Miami, FL (Miami-Dade County); Broward County, FL; Chicago, IL (Cook County); Louisville, KY (Jefferson County and Hardin County).

March of Dimes’ Mom and Baby Action Network, a consortium of national partners dedicated to addressing inequities in maternal and infant health, is partnering with the local communities to provide support, expertise, resources and tools. 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.

Christine Sanchez (571-257-2307)
[email protected]