January/February 2021 Newsletter
Beginning 2021 with Open Eyes and a Vision for Change
While 2020 may be behind us, its effects are still with us. Some of us may be dealing with depression, mourning the loss of loved ones, feeling stressed, feeling lonely and overworked all while continuing to strive to keep an optimistic outlook.

Racism, the pandemic, and the political climate have created division, fear, and a blurring of the moral compass. The domestic terrorist attack in early January only solidifies these concerns and reminds us of the hate that still exists in this country. We have our work cut out for us. And we must look forward with purpose, intention, and the energy to make change happen. Our work in maternal health depends on it greatly!

While the MHLIC team has much of which we can be proud, we agree that building a collaborative and supportive team has been so important. All of you across the country have leaned into this work in the midst of a very difficult time. We hope that you can take a minute to reflect on what you achieved! Your work is valued. Your work matters. Your work will help create a better future for birthing people.

So while the beginning of the year may look a lot like the end of 2020, we must press forward. Here's to hope, energy, teamwork, creativity and commitment for 2021!
Spark Sessions are Live and Paired with a Blog!

Spark Sessions are short on-demand videos featuring practices being developed or implemented to improve maternal health. The goal to lift up innovations from across the country. We introduced 'Spark Sessions' at September’s inaugural National Maternal Health Innovation Symposium with over 20 Spark Session videos. Our goal was not only to share examples of creative work by others in maternal health but to *spark* ideas about how others might do something new or differently in their work. Over the next several months, we will highlight some of the Spark Sessions on our blog as modeled below.
Innovating Health Data to Advance Maternity Care - the NJ Spark Session
Blog Post (Preview) by Allison George, MHLIC

From the blog, "I didn’t really understand what data or how we use it until I recently watched this 14-minute Spark Session presentation. The presentation not only outlines the initial metrics reported, but the next steps the NJ Health Department took to engage stakeholders and get feedback on their work. Additionally, they made the data available online and collected information about user opinions in order to improve the accessibility of the data to the public. This data informs policies and quality improvement priorities. And, this kind of data lets us know whether we are making progress and improving."


Developed by a coalition of national health professional organizations and consumer and patient advocates, the Well-Woman Chart is a comprehensive tool that summarizes preventive services recommendations for women. The Women’s Preventive Services (WPSI) presents the chart and its supporting documents with an innovative framework for incorporating preventive health services for women into clinical practice. Click here or on the image to watch.
NewMomHealth.com: By Moms for Moms

This videos describes a great online information hub designed new mothers for new mothers with lots of postpartum health information and support. The site is open-access, non-commercial and co-designed with the people it serves. Access to evidence-based health information for the postpartum period is limited. This website and its corresponding social media channels fill a gap for birthing parents and those who support them. Click here or on the image to watch.
Dr. Sarah Verbiest was featured in The Well (a UNC radio show) about this team's work to advance postpartum care in the US - read or listen to her interview.

If you want to explore more Spark Sessions, click here for the complete list. Several of our webinars were recorded and are also publicly available on our website and YouTube channel.
Welcome to the Team
Kelli Sheppard joined the team in late September as the Communications Manager for MHLIC and the Maternal Telehealth Access Project.

She has 20 years of marketing and communications experience working with nonprofits and small businesses. She has worked with internationally and nationally-recognized organizations and garnered credits as a photographer, journalist, cinematographer, producer, editor, and director. Prior to joining our team, she worked with March of Dimes for seven years as the communication coordinator for their North Carolina preconception health education outreach program. Kelli received her Bachelors of Science in Communication and Bachelors of Science in Business Administration in Marketing from Western Carolina University.

Maternal Health News
HHS Releases Maternal Health Action Plan
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an important HHS Action Plan and announced a partnership to reduce maternal deaths and disparities that put women at risk prior to, during, and following pregnancy. The U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams issued a complementary Call to Action to Improve Maternal Health outlining the critical roles everyone can play to improve maternal health.

In the newly released Action Plan, HHS provides a roadmap for addressing risk factors before and during pregnancy, improving the quality of and access to maternity and postpartum care, and supporting a research agenda to fill gaps in current evidence. The Call to Action provides a list of strategies and specific actions to optimize women’s health. Click here to read the full plan.

There are MHLIC-hosted events coming soon which will provide a space for conversations about the action plan's goals and how we can achieve them together. Keep your eyes on your inbox for more details.
February is Heart Health Month
Black women have the highest risk of pregnancy-related heart problems in the US
Significant racial disparities exist in heart-related problems among pregnant and postpartum women in the United States, with Black women having the highest risk of several serious complications, according to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Heart disease, stroke and pregnancy-related complications are among the top 10 causes of death in women ages 20-44 in the United States. Even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, access to health care and other medical conditions, researchers found that compared to pregnant white women, pregnant Black women were:

  • 45% more likely to die in the hospital;
  • 23% more likely to have a heart attack;
  • 57% more likely to have a stroke;
  • 42% more likely to develop a blood clot in the lungs; and
  • 71% more likely to develop heart muscle weakness.

Researchers advise that it may be an oversimplification to attribute these outcomes as directly related to socioeconomic status or differences in health care delivery. The study's results are limited and do not provide clinical results in detail. Read the article here. (December 2020)

Read what mothers have to say in this recent Chicago Tribune article. There are more details about how the federal Department of Health and Human Services plans to improve maternal health that includes achieving blood pressure control for 80% of reproductive-age women.
Join the "Release the Pressure Campaign" - take the pledge and share patient / health provider resources on your channels. Great information about understanding BP numbers and how to stay healthy. This campaign was launched by the AMA, AMA Foundation, Association of Black Cardiologists, American Heart Association, Minority Health Institute, and National Medical Association.
CDC COVID Data Tracker: Vaccinations
This dashboard includes an interactive map that shows the total number of people nationwide who have received either the first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Current vaccines require two doses. The number of people who have completed the vaccine series was last updated January 15, 2021. Data subject to change. Read more.
Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Statement: Considerations for COVID-19 Vaccination in Lactation
In December, the world began administering COVID-19 vaccinations. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine issued a statement advising that there is currently no data on the use of the vaccines during lactation, and further advised that cessation of breastfeeding is not recommended for lactating vaccinated individuals. Read the full statement here.
A Path to Reproductive Justice: Research, Practice and Policies
The second webinar in APHA's Advancing Racial Equity series covered reproductive racial disparities. Presenters:
  • Provided context of racism in reproductive care across multiple impacted groups;
  • Shared current advocacy approaches to advancing reproductive health equity; and
  • Highlighted current federal legislation that addresses the barriers to achieving reproductive justice.
Community-Based Maternal Support Services: The Role of Doulas and Community Health Workers in Medicaid
This report explores how community-based maternal support services provided by community-based doulas and maternity community health workers improve maternal health outcomes. It also highlights the results of a national environmental scan of organizations that are actively working toward eliminating maternal health disparities and building community connections through the community-based maternal support model. Finally, the report identifies common barriers to implementing this model and opportunities for Medicaid stakeholders to provide support and increased access to these services.
Four State Strategies to Employ Doulas to Improve Maternal Health and Birth Outcomes in Medicaid
Doula services, which provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to women before, during, and shortly after childbirth, provide a way to address inequities in birth outcomes and generate potential savings over time to state Medicaid programs. This report highlights how four state programs support doula services to women covered by Medicaid.
Upcoming Events
Celebrate Maternal Health Awareness Day January 23

We are excited about the upcoming Maternal Health Awareness Day! Join us, ACOG, the New Jersey Maternal Care Quality Collaborative, and many others throughout the day on January 23rd as we unite to bring awareness about the importance of taking care of our mothers well past delivery. The goal is to uplift the voices of mothers by learning to listen with the kind of intention that leads to actions which save lives.

Don't forget to follow, retweet and share to show your support by using #MHAD and #MaternalHealthAwarenessDay! Share with your networks! Save the date for a Twitter Chat on 1/26 at 2pm ET with @UNCCMIH and @marchofdimes! Discuss with experts how making healthy choices now is important for women #ttc and supporting new families this #NewYear. #Best4YouBest4Baby details here: marchofdimes.org/birthdefects.
Save the Dates!

Join the National MCH Workforce Development Center and the Maternal Health Learning and Innovation Center for a free, virtual event March 2, 4, 9, 11, 2021. Work with a team of colleagues to strengthen your skills for equity practice. Save the dates now, more info coming soon.

Join IHI's Better Maternal Outcomes Initiative and the National Network of Perinatal Quality Collaboratives (NNPQC) for the next call their public webinar series: Designing Safe and Equitable Virtual Supports for Pregnant and Postpartum Women, on Wednesday January 27 from 1-2 pm ET.

The webinar features IHI's emerging telehealth framework and describes how it is being applied to maternal health. The webinar will feature presentations from two organizations that have successfully converted their services to be offered in the virtual setting: Black Mothers' Breastfeeding Association, and Centering Healthcare. Presenters will share what has helped them to be successful and how they are addressing barriers and challenges. Register here.
From the MHLIC Team to Yours: We are Here to Support You!
This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U7CMC33636-01 for the National Maternal Health Learning and Innovation Center Cooperative Agreement. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.