PHILADELPHIA–On Friday, City officials were joined by a variety of local organizations to announce that the nonprofit Merck for Mothers had awarded the Health Federation of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Maternal Mortality Review Team a million dollars to implement and expand a variety of activities to drive down the maternal mortality rate. This grant is one of nine awarded by Merck for Mothers as part of their Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative. The initiative is providing $500 million over ten years to improve the health and well-being of mothers before, during, and after pregnancy and childbirth.

Dr. Caroline Johnson, Deputy Health Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia, said, “Maternal mortality is preventable and always a tragedy. While Philadelphia has much work to do on this, we are lucky to be able to partner with so many dedicated organizations, and to have this new money with which to do work.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that pregnancy-related mortality in the United States has tripled in the last 30 years, and African-American women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes than white women. Philadelphia reports a maternal mortality rate of 27.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, and African-American mothers are twice as likely to die within one year of childbirth in Philadelphia.

City Councilwoman Cindy Bass said, “As Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, my office is committed to working with the Health Federation of Philadelphia in collaboration with the Philadelphia Maternal Mortality Review Team and its partners to improve the quality of life for women and their families. Our ability to protect the health of mothers and babies is a basic measure of a society’s development. This is a crisis that we cannot ignore!”

The grant application proposed to do the following work to reduce the incidence of maternal mortality in Philadelphia:

  • Strengthen maternal mortality surveillance by aligning current review process with national standards
  • Improve hypertension surveillance in the intrapartum and postpartum period
  • Provide implicit bias training for MCH providers
  • Increase training for doulas
  • Provide training on unmet legal needs and its impact on health
  • Integrate behavioral health services with prenatal care
  • Improve screening, treatment, and care coordination for women with substance use disorder
  • Increase access to family planning services for women with substance use disorder
  • Improve interagency communication, care coordination, and case management of women for women during pregnancy and in the postpartum period