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Healthy Start Programs Receive $105 Million to Reduce Maternal Mortality

Pregnancy and the birth of a child should be the cause of great joy. But for too many, the event is tragic. More than 800 women died of maternal causes in 2022. 

In an effort to improve maternal outcomes, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in April, announced more than 100 community-based Healthy Start programs around the country will share $105 million in funding. 

More Than 80% of Maternal Deaths are Preventable 

Local recipients of this funding will enroll women, infants and children up to 18 months old in programs tailored to improve health outcomes during pregnancy and early childhood. Such interventions have produced positive reductions in excess mortality. 

Programs will concentrate outreach in communities experiencing comparatively high rates of maternal and infant deaths – at least 1.5 times the national average. Black and indigenous women and those living in under-resourced and rural communities are more likely to experience these tragic outcomes, partly due to inadequate access to prenatal health care. More than 80% of such maternal deaths are preventable

CDC data has tracked a decrease in the maternal mortality rate in 2022, after unusual spikes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Race and wealth disparities persist, however. 

Tailored Support Helps Moms’ Individual Needs 

Healthy Start programs offer a range of support from food assistance and nutrition counseling to birthing classes to transportation for medical appointments and even housing assistance. The new funding can also be used to hire culturally responsive providers, giving expectant and new mothers the support of a counselor, therapist, doula or social worker, according to her needs.  

Services also include universal screening for intimate partner violence, a devastating but preventable factor that impacts both maternal and infant health and occurs at higher rates in communities impacted by poverty.  

The recently announced Health Start funding is part of the Biden Administration’s Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, which aims to improve infant and maternal health.