HHS Visits St. Louis to Discuss Maternal and Infant Health

by | Apr 9, 2024 | Blog

Last week, the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) made their first stop in St. Louis as part of a multi-city tour to discuss concerning maternal and infant health outcomes. Carole Johnson, Administrator of The Health Resources & Services Administration within HHS, and other leaders also came to St. Louis, where they held the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant and Maternal Mortality (ACIMM) Meeting. This was only the second time in the ACIMM history that a meeting was held outside of Rockville, MD. They chose St. Louis to learn about the factors contributing to inequities in maternal and infant health, as well as listen to stakeholders discuss innovative solutions and recommendations. The visit to St. Louis will inform the ACIMM’s report of recommendations for addressing racial disparities. The ACIMM was welcomed by Mayor Tishaura Jones and Maxine Clark, who shared the history and vision of the Delmar Divine — the location of the three-day meeting.

Generate Health staff received a special invitation from the ACIMM to share our work, approach, and lessons learned in advancing racially just and equitable outcomes in Black maternal and infant health. Across the three-day meeting, Generate Health staff led and participated in various conversations and activities with the ACIMM. The ACIMM also heard dynamic presentations from both our local health directors, Drs. Cunningham and Hlatshwayo-Davis, who shared data about the local context of maternal and infant health, along with their recommendations.

On Wednesday, two of Generate Health’s staff members, Kyra Betts and Ronda Smith-Branch, participated on a panel that was designed to uplift the experiences of Black women and birthing people in Missouri. The panel was moderated by ACIMM member and Generate Health community leader, ShaRhonda Thompson.  ShaRhonda is the only community member serving on the ACIMM and was nominated by Generated Health. The panel discussion focused on what is needed to bring joy and thriving into the maternal space. Panel participants were also asked to give one recommendation for the ACIMM to take back to the secretary. Since the panel, Kyra has been invited to one of the ACIMM’s workgroups.

Our Deputy Director, Rose Anderson-Rice, facilitated our Social Determinants of Health Tour for nine members of the ACIMM. The tour is an interactive driving tour of neighborhoods in zip codes 63113, 63120, and 63136. Participants received information about healthcare, housing, environmental issues, economics, and educational policies that impact the health of Black families living in these communities. Racism and racial disparities are discussed as critical elements contributing to health disparities in St. Louis.

Lora Gulley, our Director of Community Mobilization & Advocacy, attended an invitation-only convening with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Maternal Health. The convening kicked off the first stop of an 11-city, year-long ‘Enhancing Maternal Health Initiative’ tour across the country to accelerate and maximize work being done to address the maternal health crisis, as well as harness learnings from HRSA’s maternal health investments. Lora attended the convening as an Advisory Board member of the St. Louis University Center of Excellence for Maternal and Child Education, which was awarded more than $1.7 million over five years to strengthen and diversify the maternal and child health public health workforce across Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa.

Throughout the convening, roundtable discussions fostered participant collaboration and set the stage for understanding challenges, best practices, and opportunities for action to improve maternal health in Missouri. Featured topics included:

  • Expanding awareness of maternal mental health hotline
  • Connecting people to benefits and social services
  • Increasing early engagement in prenatal care
  • Ensuring services in high need communities

Recommendations from our staff included:

  • Centering community in leadership positions
  • Shifting the narrative from mortality to vitality
  • Investing in quality programs & systems change work is necessary to achieve equity
  • Access to a greater diversity of care models designed with, by, and for Black people

We are honored to have been included in these important discussions. Having our work recognized by federal agencies indicates that we are on the right track with our community-led approach.

Read more about the convening in the St. Louis Post Dispatch article, St. Louis is the First Stop in Federal Effort to Address Maternal Health Crisis.


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