May 9, 2024

New public-private partnership formed to advance maternal and infant health in Maryland

Five philanthropic organizations join Maryland Department of Health to convene new Birth Equity Funders Collaborative

(Baltimore, Md.) – Dawn Flythe Moore, Maryland’s First Lady, announced a new public-private partnership today with several philanthropic organizations to drive investments to improve birth equity and maternal and infant health in Maryland.

The Horizon Foundation, The Straus Foundation, Inc., The Sherman Family Foundation, The Richman Foundation and The Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund will join the Maryland Department of Health to conduct a comprehensive landscape assessment of birth equity in Maryland – including collecting data, interviewing community, nonprofit and government leaders and identifying opportunities for catalytic investment. The State of Birth Equity, a national initiative supported by the Community Health Acceleration Partnership, Pritzker Children’s Initiative and Boldly Go Philanthropy, will also work with the funder collaborative on these efforts.

“In communities across the state, maternal and infant health has been in crisis for far too long, particularly for Black and Brown birthing people and their babies,” said Nikki Highsmith Vernick, president and CEO of the Horizon Foundation, the largest independent health philanthropy in Maryland. “This public-private partnership is a first and critical step towards understanding how we reduce maternal mortality, eliminate racial disparities and improve the lives of moms and babies across Maryland.”

Indicators of maternal and infant health have been poor in Maryland for over a decade, and racial disparities are stark. While the state has made some improvements, Maryland earned a C- overall in a recent March of Dimes report card studying rates of preterm birth, infant mortality and maternal health. The preterm birth rate of babies born to Black birthing people is 1.5 times higher than the rate among all other babies, and the infant mortality rate among babies born to Black birthing people is 1.5 times higher than the overall state rate, according to the same report.

Nationally, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Black women in the U.S. are more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their White counterparts. More than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths are deemed preventable. Despite spending more per capita on maternal health than other industrialized nations, the maternal mortality rate in the United States is rising, and racial disparities are widening over time.

The State of Birth Equity works with state-based funders to identify the most pressing local needs and advance effective strategies to promote birth equity. It is currently active in Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Washington; the newly announced partnership will be the first of its kind in Maryland.

“Maryland is striving to be a national model in gathering diverse partners to better understand and solve health inequities,” added Vernick. “We look forward to working with our state and philanthropic partners to drive strategic investments in maternal and infant health to eliminate disparities and ensure better health outcomes for all.”

The announcement of the collaborative by First Lady Moore came during her remarks at the statewide Maternal Mortality Summit at Coppin State University.