At Cedars-Sinai, a Dedicated Focus on Black Birth Equity
Jun 02, 2023 Jeremy Deutchman
Statistics on Black maternal health are devastating in their clarity. Across age and education, Black pregnant individuals are far more likely to experience negative health outcomes than their white counterparts.
For instance, the pregnancy-related mortality rate for Black women who completed college education or higher is 5.2 times higher than the rate for white women with the same educational level and 1.6 times higher than the rate for white women with less than a high school diploma.
Striving for health equity among all populations has long been a goal of Cedars-Sinai. Central to the institution’s most recent efforts is an emphasis on strengthening community-based organizations through high-impact Black birth equity grants.
"Cedars-Sinai has been committed to improving Black birth equity for many years, and the birth equity grants are just one of the ways we contribute to finding solutions for this problem."
Promoting appropriate interventions
“Cedars-Sinai has been committed to improving Black birth equity for many years, and the birth equity grants are just one of the ways we contribute to finding solutions for this problem,” said Christina Harris, MD, the medical center’s chief health equity officer.
“Our grantees are trusted organizations in the community with years of experience listening and learning. They bring a level of expertise and situational awareness that can allow for creative and culturally tailored interventions that have the potential to improve and save lives.”
The grants, totaling $2.2 million to 12 organizations, focus on reaching perinatal and postnatal Black women in Los Angeles County across the continuum of care. Grantees include highly respected partners such as the California Black Women’s Health Project, which seeks to build community among Black pregnant and parenting women by providing health education and resources through workshops and informational sessions.
“Cedars-Sinai’s investment in our Maternal and Reproductive Health Ambassadors program has helped us to expand the capacity of trusted Black women service providers who are too often underfunded and undersupported,” said Sonya Young Aadam, CEO of California Black Women’s Health Project.
“These birthworkers/ambassadors are experts in the needs and community-defined evidence practices that are best received by the pregnant and parenting Black women, people and families we serve in the greater Los Angeles area.”
Grants have also been given to other organizations. These include To Help Everyone Clinic, for its efforts to enhance gynecological care for perinatal and postnatal women—including developing a doula engagement model—and to improve maternal and child health outcomes in its service area; Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, for its work to increase access to dignified, consistent and high-quality education and supportive services for Black birth families delivered within a community-based setting, with a focus on developing a sustainability model; and Martin Luther King Jr. Community Healthcare, for its initiative to address maternal and infant health inequities in South Los Angeles by providing comprehensive, midwife-led prenatal care.
“Our grantees are addressing the legacy of structural discrimination that contributes to inequities in birth experiences and outcomes for Black pregnant people and Black babies,” said Tshema Nash, a grantmaking program officer at Cedars-Sinai who manages these grants. “They have experience and deep connections in our local communities, and their work includes both direct services and system-level initiatives to increase wellbeing and health equity for Black families.”
Inspired by community
The Black birth equity grants are the outgrowth of dedicated research by and advocacy from a broad range of community stakeholders.
“While Cedars-Sinai continues to work to address Black birth equity in Los Angeles through our clinical and community benefit programs, it was the data and stories from researchers, activists and community members that informed and inspired us to prioritize this work explicitly in our grantmaking,” Nash said. “We are committed to supporting these efforts long term.”
As a major funder of efforts to advance Black birth equity in California, Cedars-Sinai is dedicated to shining a spotlight on this critical issue—and to teaming up with like-minded organizations in this common cause.
“Hospitals, clinics, government agencies, community-based organizations and others are all doing their part to address this very challenging disparity, and it’s been incredible to be part of it,” Harris said. “The momentum we’re building demonstrates what can be accomplished when concerned and activated people come together to make a difference.”