Addressing Systemic Inequities in Support of a 21st Century Maternal and Child Health Workforce
Despite advances in medical care, stark racial disparities persist in maternal and child health (MCH). Compared to White women, Black women face risk factors in childbirth that increase the likelihood of infant mortality as well as rates of pregnancy-related death that are two to three times higher. To better serve America’s increasingly diverse population and ensure equitable outcomes, it is imperative that we accelerate improvements in MCH health and well-being. Building a more inclusive next-generation MCH workforce is one way we do this.
For more than 20 years, Altarum has provided broad research, planning, and evaluative support for Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) programs through a contract; these efforts have included convening expert advisory panels and working groups to facilitate information-sharing and virtual collaboration. More recently, we began a five-year project to support the bureau’s research and workforce training programs, which comprise grantees from universities and affiliated MCH research, service, and other learning institutions. Critical to this effort is the inclusion of voices that historically faced limits to accessing, enrolling, and participating in MCHB programs, services, and committees and to engaging with MCHB staff in decision-making — historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Since June 2021, Altarum has led a strategic workgroup made up of MCHB staff and staff from 10 HBCUs, otherwise known as the HBCU Alliance Team (HAT), to advance discussions and expand knowledge around MCH health. The HAT is a subgroup of the Consortium of African American Public Health Programs, whose mission is to advocate for equity and social justice through research and service.
While our work is just beginning, we’re currently facilitating bimonthly meetings to promote bidirectional knowledge transfer on topics of interest. Past meetings have included presentations on the Healthy Start program from the Division of Healthy Start and Perinatal Services, the National Survey of Children’s Health from the Office of Epidemiology and Research, and mentorship resources available through Association of Teachers of Maternal and Child Health.
Additional accomplishments include:
- Hosting the inaugural Targeting Healthy Results for Infants from Vulnerable Environments (THRIVE) Summit in April as part of National Public Health Week. With more than 225 attendees, the four-hour virtual event provided a forum for sharing approaches to addressing maternal and infant health disparities and workforce development opportunities. It also encouraged interdisciplinary partnership and collaboration across the private and public sectors.
- Supporting the development of a recommendations report for the federal government. To further advance access and equity in MCH health, MCHB asked HAT to share how the federal government could address barriers to HBCU participation in MCHB decision making and to accessing funding. Altarum led discussions with HAT members to capture their recommendations and draft a report, which was delivered to MCHB.
Based on the success of the first THRIVE Summit, Altarum is already leading the planning of the second annual event, which will be expanded to two days to allow for even greater opportunities for networking and knowledge transfer. We look forward to continued collaboration with the HAT and MCHB to improve the health of MCH populations and communities experiencing inequities.
“This was an amazing day!!!! Thanks to all for a job well done!!! I learned a lot and hope that we inspired a lot of good work for the future”
– THRIVE Summit Participant