The vision for the Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative is to foster local solutions that help cities become safer – and more equitable – places to give birth. It is part of Merck for Mothers, Merck’s global initiative to help end preventable deaths of women from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. For the inaugural class, Safer Childbirth Cities will also be co-funded with the Burke Foundation, The Nicholson Foundation, the Community Health Acceleration Partnership, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Rhia Ventures, and others.
“Safer Childbirth Cities builds on the insights gained and work implemented through Merck for Mothers over the past seven years,” said Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, chief patient officer at Merck. “Together with our current and future collaborators, we aim to foster community engagement and reverse the deeply troubling trends in U.S. maternal health.”
The U.S. is the only high-income country where maternal mortality is on the rise. Additionally, racial disparities are stark and persistent – a Black woman is three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy or childbirth complication than a White woman, according to the CDC.
“Each of the selected coalitions is pursuing solutions that are most impactful for their communities,” noted Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, lead and executive director of Merck for Mothers. “In addition to the local outcomes, I’m excited to see what learnings the coalitions can incorporate from each other – and how we can take these findings to greater scale and impact.”
“We envision a world where all Black Mamas have access to the respectful care they need,” said Angela D. Aina, interim director, Black Mamas Matter Alliance. “We’re thrilled to be a part of the Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative, through which we plan to create a model for women in Atlanta, GA to get the care they need during pregnancy and beyond with specially trained para-professionals and other social support resources.”
“At the Kellogg Foundation, our goal is that every child thrives. That starts with a healthy pregnancy and birth,” said Rhea Williams-Bishop, director of Mississippi and New Orleans programs for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We are excited to partner with Merck for Mothers and join the growing number of natural birth advocates and doulas in the community to better support Black women and low-income women in Mississippi, ensuring every child has a healthy start in life.”
“New Jersey’s infant and maternal mortality rates are startling, and for women and babies of color the statistics are even more dire,” said Tammy Murphy, First Lady of New Jersey. “Through our statewide Nurture NJ campaign, we are simultaneously working to combat implicit bias in our health care systems and on the economic and social factors that contribute to the disparities. Our goal is to make New Jersey the safest place in the United States to give birth and I applaud the Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative and organizations like the Greater Newark Healthcare Coalition and Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers who are working with us to make that a reality.”