HARI looks to improve maternal health for Black women across Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE – After news broke last year that Black women experienced severe maternal morbidity at nearly twice the rate of white women throughout Rhode Island, health officials and community activists looked to improve care for pregnant Black women.

The most recent step toward care equity came on Friday, when Rhode Island became the 33rd state to join the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health.

Using funding from the Health Resource Services Administration, AIM will partner with national women’s health organizations, community-based organizations, state agencies and hospitals to provide maternal safety tools that are used in hospital quality improvement initiatives with an end goal to end preventable maternal mortality and severe morbidity.

“Participating in a national patient safety effort like AIM is an opportunity for birthing providers to learn and share best practices in providing the highest-quality care for mothers and babies,” said Teresa Paiva Weed, president of Hospital Association of Rhode Island. “We are excited to partner with hospitals and NPIC to launch this patient safety effort here in our state.”

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HARI and the National Perinatal Information Center are leading the statewide initiative, where the AIM program will provide resources for four of the five birthing facilities in Rhode Island.

These participating facilities include Women & Infants Hospital, Kent Hospital, South County Health and Landmark Medical Center, according to Gina Rocha, a registered nurse and vice president of clinical affairs at the Hospital Association of Rhode Island.

Rocha said she hopes to have Newport Hospital, the fifth birthing facility in the state that has not yet promised to participate, join the AIM program soon, but that the Lifespan Corp. hospital currently runs their own program to help improve maternal health.

Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similar disparities are present in Rhode Island where data from the R.I. Department of Health from a study that ran from 2013 to 2016 showed that Black women experience more severe maternal morbidity at nearly twice the rate of white women.

According to a Rhode Island Kids Count study, between 2013 and 2017, 21.8% of Black women received delayed or no prenatal care, compared with 12.2% of white women, and 11.3% of Black women have preterm births compared with 8% of white women.

“This is really going to help the institutional barriers that are in place now that need to be removed,” said Rocha to a Providence Business News reporter.

The participating birthing facilities, obstetric providers and public heath teams will adapt and implement a series of instructions and action steps called “bundles,” that Rocha said are evidence-based practices linked to improve patient care for mothers and infants. The participating hospitals will implement the Reduction of Postpartum Hemorrhage using the AIM maternal safety bundle.

Additional safety bundles will be implemented in the coming months, according to the announcement.

“The maternal morbidity and mortality rate in the United States is unacceptable, and has been for some time, particularly for Black and Brown women,” said Dr. Elizabeth Rochin, the president of the National Perinatal Information Center. “Bringing the national quality -improvement work of AIM to Rhode Island will provide additional opportunities for our inpatient obstetric teams and our community partners to collaborate on enhancing and elevating the life of all mothers and newborns in Rhode Island.”

This national maternal patient safety effort began in Rhode Island on Friday and will run for five years.

More information about the national AIM program can be found here.

Alexa Gagosz is a PBN staff writer. Contact her at Gagosz@PBN.com.