Facing Criticism, Feds Award First Maternal Health Grant to a Predominantly Black Rural Area

by | Oct 2, 2023 | Health

A federal program to combat the alarming rates of rural women dying from pregnancy complications has marked a first: It’s supporting an organization that serves predominantly Black counties in the Deep South.

The news came Sept. 27, three months after KFF Health News’ reporting raised questions about why a federal Health Resources and Services Administration program targeting rural maternal mortality hadn’t sent a grant to serve mothers in majority-Black rural communities.

Non-Hispanic Black women — regardless of income or education level — die of pregnancy-related causes at nearly three times the rate of non-Hispanic white women.

The Institute for the Advancement of Minority Health in Madison, Mississippi, was one of two winners in the latest round of an initiative administered by HRSA. Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, New Hampshire, was the other winner, according to an agency announcement.

“Very happy to see Mississippi,” said Peiyin Hung, deputy director of the University of South Carolina’s Rural and Minority Health Research Center. Mississippi has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. and the highest proportion of Black births in the U.S., she said.

Hung, who is a member of the health equity advisory group for the maternal grant program, said the Mississippi nonprofit is an unusual awardee because it is not part of a larger health system.

In June, KFF Health News found that HRSA’s Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies Program, or RMOMS, had failed to fund any sites in the Southeast, where the U.S. Census Bureau shows the largest concentration of predominantly Black rural communities. The program began four years ago and had budget …

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