Far reaching impact
The center will even extend outside Northwell's doors. Its Maternal Outcomes Navigation program, which began as a 20-month pilot, will provide support to high-risk women between prenatal appointments and postpartum.
Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling said the system was willing to pay whatever price necessary to achieve its long-term goal of reducing Black maternal mortality rates. Black women in New York are three to 12 times more likely to die of childbirth-related causes than white women, according to city data. He said the team was in the process of defining the center's short-term metrics of success.
Of the 30,500 patients who deliver at a Northwell facility in a year, Dowling said an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 need a higher level of care because of their risk profile.
"We'll do whatever it takes," he said. "I'm not putting a specific budget out there. I'm saying, 'This is a major focus.'"
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Northwell operates 22 hospitals and 830 outpatient facilities and boasts more than 16,600 affiliated physicians. It reported a $103 million surplus on $10.7 billion in operating revenue during the first nine months of 2021, according to its most recently reported financial results.
Northwell's center is one of several new hospital-based initiatives to address maternal health. St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, Queens, last week announced the launch of its women's health center, which will provide such services as OB-GYN care and maternal-fetal medicine. The hospital funded its construction with a $3.1 million state grant.
"The need for the Margaret O. Carpenter Women's Health Center is evident in the fact that the Rockaways sees a higher rate of pregnant women who seek late or no prenatal care when compared to the overall New York City rate," CEO Jerry Walsh said.
Dr. Kulleni Gebreyes, U.S. chief health equity officer and consulting healthcare sector leader for Deloitte, applauded the new programs but said that hospitals and health systems need to involve the women they intend to serve in their planning and decision-making processes. Otherwise, she said, programs could fall victim to leadership's blind spots.
"Despite all these good intentions, a lot of these programs still don't achieve the aspirational goals and aims they set for themselves," Gebreyes said. "If we executives decide what problems we're solving for and how we're solving for it without bringing in the voice of our customer, we've already failed to address probably the most crucial things to them."