The Nation’s First Ever Maternal Health Awareness Week Kicks Off with a ‘March for Moms’

May 11, 2018

On Sunday, May 6, health providers, advocates, and families gathered on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to kick off a three-day event, March for Moms. This was the second annual rally to raise awareness of poor access to maternal healthcare, discrimination, and healthcare provider shortages, among other issues. Clare Friedrich, CBC, Maternal Health Advocate at the Institute’s Family Health Center of Harlem attended the rally and submitted the post below.

Claire Friedrich at March for Moms
Clare Friedrich, CBC attends the March for Moms rally in Washington, DC on May 6, 2018.


There is a growing recognition that the U.S. has a maternal health crisis, including the highest maternal mortality rates among all industrialized countries. Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die during or soon after giving birth compared to White women; in pockets of New York City (NYC), black women are 12 times more likely than White women to die. With an estimate that over 50% of maternal deaths are preventable, there is no denying a failure on the part of the medical establishment.

Governor Cuomo has shown major support over the past year to improve maternal health outcomes in the state of New York by establishing a new Maternal Mortality Review Board to review each maternal death, along with the creation of a Taskforce on Maternal Mortality and Disparate Racial Outcomes to make policy recommendations that directly target maternal mortality and related health disparities. Most recently, he declared Maternal Health Awareness Week from May 6 – 11, 2018 in New York State.

With this acknowledgment from the government, there is hope of better support for organizations, like the Institute, that help address the needs of underserved populations. There is a structural shift at the Institute aimed at addressing the maternal health crisis head-on.  Last year, the Institute designated a Clinical Director of Maternal Medicine and hired a team of Maternal Health Advocates, led by a Maternal Health and Centering Coordinator. Under the leadership of Dr. Aimee Smith, Director of Maternal Medicine, the team has worked diligently to collect and analyze maternal health data and improve the quality of prenatal and postpartum care. Kingston Specialty Care Center is launching new childbirth education offerings this summer, and the Institute has expanded the IMPLICIT Inter-Conception Care program to 3 Bronx locations with support from March of Dimes. Maternal Health Advocates co-facilitate CenteringPregnancy™ (group prenatal care) at four of our NYC sites.   CenteringParenting™ furthers this model of group care for new parents and babies at Walton Family Health Center in the Bronx, while patients at Family Health Center of Harlem are offered weekly prenatal/postnatal yoga classes. The Maternal Health Advocates also assist with city-wide service referrals, health education, care navigation, connecting patients to free doula services, and providing lactation support for hundreds of pregnant patients each month. Through the work of the maternal health team, the Institute aims to improve access to and quality of care for women, regardless of race, income, or insurance.

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