According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 700 women die each year in the United States from pregnancy-related complications, and more than 25,000 women experience severe maternal morbidity. And severe maternal morbidity and mortality disproportionately affect African American (AA) women.

December 8, 2020

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides $21 million to six institutions over five years to fund new research demonstrating how to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related complications and deaths. The project is supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), and the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health.

MSU received a $3,944,351 NIH/NIMHD grant to test the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a multilevel intervention to address African American maternal morbidity and mortality in Genesee County and Kent County. 

“African American women in the United States are three to four times more likely to have pregnancy-related complications and die than are non-Hispanic white women,” said Jennifer Johnson, C. S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health at Michigan State University and PI on the grant. “Inequities creating worse outcomes for Black moms occur at many levels, including difficulty accessing prenatal services, racial discrimination in healthcare settings where they receive services, and lower quality care in settings that serve a high number of African American women. This project tests locally developed solutions to each of these issues to improve the entire continuum of care for African American women in our two target counties.” 

“The goal of this research is to work with community partners to develop and implement an intervention at multiple levels to address disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality among Medicaid-insured women,” said Cristian Meghea, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Michigan State University and PI on the grant.

Intervention components were developed or co-developed by partners in Kent and Genesee counties, who include Black women, enhanced prenatal and postnatal care staff (including race-matched community health workers), and physician/health system staff and providers. These two counties include Grand Rapids and Flint, two cities with high rates of adverse maternal and infant health outcomes.

“This project builds on longstanding partnerships with community and policy partners, including Spectrum Health, Strong Beginnings – Healthy Start, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The project fits with the overarching goal of our program of research—which is to use the prenatal and perinatal period as a window of opportunity to improve the long-term health of women and their families and to reduce health disparities,” Meghea said.

“We are looking forward to working with Black moms and others from the target communities to improve outcomes for them and their families. This study will be among the first to use implementation science to scale and evaluate a multilevel intervention to reduce maternal health disparities. We are proud to build on and expand the work of our amazing community partners,” Meghea added.