Memphis hospital launches targeted perinatal care program for Black mothers and infants

What’s happening: Memphis health care system Regional One Health has announced their launch of Healthy Start, a federal initiative to improve health outcomes for mothers and infants before, during, and after pregnancy, and specifically the Black women and children of Shelby County — a community faced with significantly higher mortality rates than their neighbors. The Healthy Start program at Regional One launches on the strength of a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

What it is: The Healthy Start Initiative: Eliminating Disparities in Perinatal Health program is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a nationwide push to improve health outcomes and reduce mortality rates for Black women and infants. Regional One Health will focus its efforts on families in the following zip codes: 38053, 38104, 38105, 38107, 38108, 38112, 38113, 38117, 38119, 38122, 38125, 38126, 38127, 38133, 38134, and 38141.

Why it is: Higher mortality rates for Black women and infants is a nationwide problem, hence the initiative. And though rates have slightly improved over the past two decades, Shelby County has seen those improvements stagnate these past several years. As detailed in a 2023 report from The Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis, 

“Black infants in Shelby County are 1.5 times more likely to be born pre-term that white infants, twice as likely to have low birth weights, and 2.2 times more likely to die before their first birthday. Black mothers are nearly three times more likely than white mothers to die during childbirth.”

How it works: The $5 million grant will be spent over the course of five years, with Regional One Health expecting to have its multidisciplinary care team assembled and ready by July 1, 2024. It’s a group that will include a program manager, case management, social work, and health educators working together to deliver results for Shelby County families in the aforementioned zip codes. A more holistic approach to perinatal care will be tailored to meet the needs and challenges of each individual family. 

What they’re saying: “Regional One Health is intentional about providing quality, comprehensive care to women in this community, and we know the health and wellness needs are great,” says Angela Adair, director of practice operations and women’s services at Regional One Health. “We know healthy babies begin with healthy moms, and we are delighted to have this opportunity to improve the health of the African American women we serve.”
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