HHS awarded almost $360 million to programs supporting maternal and child health, the agency said Tuesday.
The funding includes more than $340 million to deliver voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services to pregnant women and parents with young children through the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, according to HHS. Another $16 million will go towards improving maternal health outcomes through the State Maternal Health Innovation program.
"The MIECHV program aims to improve the well-being of both parents and children across the life course, leading to healthier and stronger families and communities," Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator Tom Engels said in a statement. "In these voluntary programs, trained professionals meet regularly with expectant parents or families with young children in their homes, fostering strong, positive relationships with families who want and need support."
According to the agency, the State MHI program aims to address high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in the U.S. and improve maternal health outcomes through nine cooperative agreements. The awards help states set up a task force focused on improving maternal health, collect and analyze data and reform maternal health service delivery.
Maternal health is an ongoing concern among public health experts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported pregnancy-related deaths gradually rose from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 16.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2016. While improvements in reporting accuracy and disease classification changes account for some of the increase, most experts agree social determinants of health are driving a significant amount of the change.
"The most notable disparity in mortality rates in the U.S. is defined by race: Black women die at a rate that ranges from three to four times the rate of their white counterparts … this difference in risk has remained unchanged for the past six decades," according to the maternal health task force at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.