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Addressing maternal and infant health disparities in North Carolina

We're committed to improving infant and maternal health.

Current health outcomes

North Carolina has the 11th highest infant mortality rate in the country – at a rate of 6.8 per 1,000.1

Health care disparities in underserved and marginalized communities are largely to blame. Birthing people of color in North Carolina are more likely to die from preventable maternal health issues than White people. They are often met with racial bias and receive fewer educational services during labor and delivery than White people who give birth. These factors lead to worsening health outcomes for birthing people of color and their children.

Interesting Facts...

Black, American Indian and Hispanic babies are up to 2.4 times more likely to die in the first year[D]

Black birthing people are 3 or 4 times more likely to die during childbirth[D]

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 60% of maternal deaths are preventable[D]

We're working with organizations across the state to tackle maternal and infant health inequities

We believe infant and maternal mortality is a public health crisis, and it's more important than ever to address the issues causing disparities during labor and postpartum health care.

Our goal? To improve health equity by reducing racial disparities in maternal and infant health care by 50% in 5 years.

We're focusing on the communities that need our help the most. When we make maternal and infant health disparities in marginalized communities a priority, we can address the state's infant and maternal mortality rate for all North Carolinians.

We are investing $2 million into evidence-based initiatives that are shown to make a significant improvement on infant and maternal health outcomes across the state – specifically the health and well-being of birthing people, and children, of color. We put out a request for proposals for organizations that have sustainable and expandable maternal health programs to help us address the factors that contribute to poor maternal health and birth outcomes like:

  • Implicit bias / structural racism
  • Safe sleep habits
  • Tobacco, alcohol and substance use cessation
  • Prenatal care
  • Social drivers of health
  • Maternal mental health
  • Severe Maternal Morbidity (SMM)
  • Postpartum care

We're investing in 7 organizations to address maternal and infant health

As as result of our RFP, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) is investing over $2 million in seven initiatives led by diverse community organizations[D] and agencies across the state. These organizations are dedicated to improving maternal and infant health outcomes in Black, Hispanic and American Indian communities.

These initiatives will:

  • Address non-medical drivers of health for birthing people, including food security, transportation and affordable housing
  • Increase access to specially trained nurses, breastfeeding education, and diverse lactation consultants and doulas
  • Improve the quality and spectrum of care for birthing people and their babies
  • Educate providers on racial bias and its implications on health outcomes for birthing people and their babies

These initiatives will span multiple years, and will help improve the experiences for birthing people and babies from historially underserved communities. And will contribute to our ultimate goal of reducing racial disparities in maternal and child health by 50% in 5 years.  

Learn more about the initiatives we're investing in and the counties impacted

Counties: Chatham

Chatham County EMBRACe

EMBRACe is a collaborative consortium made up of the following partners: UNC Chatham Hospital (CH), a local critical access rural hospital; the Chatham County Department of Social Services (CC DSS); Chatham County Department of Public Health (CCPHD); and Piedmont Health Services (PHS), a local federally qualified health center organization. The proposed project seeks to create a person-centered system of care oriented around women of color, their lived experiences, their full personhood, and their well-being.

Counties: Robeson, Scotland, Cumberland, Hoke

University of North Carolina at Pembroke

The Health Equity Project is a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort of the social work, kinesiology, and nursing departments. The specific aim of the project is improving access to quality care for expecting and parenting mothers of diverse ethnic groups by targeting health care and education professionals as systems for change within the southeastern region of North Carolina.

Counties: Guilford, Forsyth, Alamance, Davidson

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical (A & T) State University

Training for more people of color to become certified internationally credited lactation consultants with the goal to open a lactation clinic to serve the minority population in Guilford County and surrounding areas in North Carolina.

Counties: Mecklenburg

Queen City Cocoa B.E.A.N.S

Breastfeeding education program for new and expecting families from communities of color and a mentoring program for health care providers and/or health profession students from underrepresented communities of color who would like to become International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs).

Counties: Halifax, Northampton, Edgecombe

Lincoln Height Community Center

Grassroots prenatal program, where local expectant mothers are educated on nutrition, provided with transportation to prenatal appointments and provided with childcare for their existing children, if necessary. The Center also provides food boxes and meals to expectant mothers on a monthly basis, transportation to grocery stores and shopping locations, information on affordable housing, and transportation to legal appointments. Regular wellness checks will be conducted by staff, in-person and online.

Counties: Statewide

Nurse- Family Partnership

Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is a community health program that connects specially trained nurses to first-time parents early in pregnancy and provides advice and support via home visits and telehealth through the child’s second birthday. This investment will support nurse education, capacity building, and caseload building for nurse home visitors.

Counties: Cumberland

North Carolina Black Alliance

This project seeks to address breastfeeding rates disparities in Eastern North Carolina by coordinating with state and local institutions to support the development of more lactation consultants in Eastern North Carolina.

Point of Blue

Read more from our Blue Cross NC Blog about maternal and infant health care disparities in North Carolina.

Black maternal health

Health equity begins before birth.

Improving maternal and perinatal health equity

Work is underway to reduce gaps in maternal health care.

Holistic care to mothers of color

It just might save their lives.