Last month, the White House issued the first-ever proclamation on Black maternal health to address the health crisis Black women are facing. This is just one of many first steps that are being taken as we march toward the goal of equitable healthcare.
Making good on their promise to confront this crisis, The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) recently announced a goal of reducing racial disparities in maternal health by 50% in the next five years.
Making Strides in Maternal Health
Black women are 3x more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even more tragically, most of these deaths are preventable. With measurable goals throughout the organization, take a look at how Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are supporting women of color and mothers in their local communities.
Improving pregnancy outcomes for women with diabetes. To address this public health crisis and reduce disparities in care for diabetes, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina launched Diabetes Free SC (DFSC) in 2020. With grant funding from the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation, DFSC is working with grantees to stand up pregnancy centers across the state that provide wraparound care for women with diabetes. Instead of prenatal visits with just her obstetrician, an expectant mother with any type of diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 or gestational) will also see a diabetes specialist and educator, dietician and ophthalmologist. Plus, she will receive behavioral health screenings and be connected to food share programs as necessary.
Eliminating food insecurity for mothers and babies. Feeding America reports that one in five African Americans is food insecure. Knowing that limited access to nutritious food during pregnancy can cause serious complications for the health of both mother and baby, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota has created a first-of-its-kind dietary support program to study impact on Black and Indigenous health outcomes. Through the study, mothers and families in need are provided clinically tailored meals, food boxes, and nutritional coaching in partnership with Project Well and Second Harvest Heartland. Eligible families can participate in the study as early as 20 weeks into their pregnancy and continue through the second month after birth.
Caring for mental health. Postpartum depression can be crippling for a new mother, affecting her ability to care for herself and her newborn. And women of color are less likely to receive treatment for depressive symptoms after pregnancy. To ensure Black mothers can overcome these barriers and receive the care they need, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is coming up with solutions to help patients in the city of Newark. Providing culturally-focused education to healthcare providers, working with community health workers and doulas to address social needs, and supporting clinicians in referring these mothers for postpartum depression treatment, this program is in partnership with the state’s Medicaid agency and will help researchers to find out how to better support mothers with postpartum depression.
Measurable Commitment to Equity
BCBS companies across the country have launched dozens of maternal health solutions to help mothers and babies in the communities they serve, but that is only part of the long-term National Health Equity Strategy. More broadly, this strategy will pursue needed legislative changes, boost provider trainings and incentives, and expand data collection to better understand and solve issues of health equity.
Together, with companies like BCBSA leading the way, we can create meaningful change in advancing health equity for the health of all Americans.
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, a national association of independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans.