Mental health professionals, birth workers, medical professionals and community members came together Saturday as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched its M.O.M.S. Tour (Maternal Outcomes Matter Showers) in Detroit.
HHS said over 500 pregnant and postnatal women, dads and children gathered at the Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ for the event, which was geared to improve maternal health outcomes, particularly among African American and American Indian/Alaska Native women, in communities with high maternal and morbidity rates.
Among the various officials and medical professionals in attendance was Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
“Michigan is working to improve maternal health through Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Healthy Moms Healthy Babies, which among other things extends postpartum Medicaid coverage and made Michigan one of the first states to support expecting mothers by covering doula services,” Bagdasarian told the Michigan Advance. “We appreciate our federal partners from the Biden Administration bringing attention and increased funding to improving maternal health outcomes.”
As laid out in the Biden-Harris administration’s Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, the nation is facing a maternal health crisis in which most pregnancy-related deaths are considered preventable.
“Systemic barriers, together with a failure to recognize, respect and listen to patients of color, has meant that Black and American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) women, regardless of income or education, experience a greater share of these grave outcomes, as do rural women,” states the report.
Among the actions called for in the blueprint is ensuring comprehensive, continuous maternal health insurance coverage both during pregnancy, but also for at least a year afterwards, noting that while approximately 42% of births are covered by Medicaid, historically people with Medicaid lost postpartum coverage 60 days after the end of pregnancy.
With that in mind, HHS has for the first time approved extension of Medicaid postpartum benefits to 12 months. So far, 35 states — including Michigan — plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have implemented that coverage extension with the goal of reducing the rate of maternal morbidity and mortality, including significant health disparities for Black women during the postpartum period.
Also present Saturday was Rev. Dr. Que English, HHS director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S.
“Addressing maternal health disparities has been a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration, recognizing that the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations –especially among Black and American Indian and Alaska Native women who are 2.5-3 times more likely to die during childbirth compared to non-Hispanic Whites,” she said. “That’s why this national tour is so important, connecting prenatal and postnatal women to services on site in an effort to improve maternal health outcomes in our nation.”
Saturday’s gathering provided healthy food demonstrations, vaccinations for influenza, screenings for COVID and high blood pressure, as well as connected attendees to healthcare coverage, including mental health services and safe sleep resources. A special session was also held for new and expectant fathers facilitated by The Institute of Population Health and Healthy Start Detroit.
Attendees were all provided with free bus transportation back home courtesy of the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT).
In addition to Detroit, the M.O.M.S Tour plans this year to visit Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas; Houston, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M.; Memphis, Tenn.; Little Rock, Ark.; Tulsa, Okla.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
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