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The MOMNIBUS Act: Why It’s Important
This week, the Black Maternal Health Caucus introduced the latest version of the [Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act](https://blackmaternalhealthcaucus-underwood.house.gov/Momnibus). This legislation recognizes the racial disparities in maternal healthcare and the critical need for comprehensive care for Black mothers. With the ability to assist nearly one million Americans, Momnibus would provide essential support, nutrition, and care for…
Racial Disparities in Maternal & Infant Health
Racial disparities in maternal and infant health in the U.S. have persisted for decades despite continued advancements in medical care. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from complications surrounding pregnancy and childbirth than White women. Infants born to Black and Indigenous Americans also have markedly higher mortality rates than White infants.(2)
Data has found that over 80% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.(3) Death rates for infants born to Black women with advanced degrees are higher than White women who didn’t attend high school.(2)
Factors Driving Maternal Racial Disparities
Broad social, structural, and economic factors drive these disparities. These inequities are rooted in historic and ongoing systemic racism. Factors that drive these disparities include(2):
- Discrimination: Black women reported significantly higher rates of mistreatment (such as shouting and scolding, ignoring, or refusing requests for help) during the course of their pregnancy.
- Racial Bias: Black adults were likelier than White adults to report feeling that a provider didn’t believe they were telling the truth and being refused a test, treatment, or pain medication they thought needed.
- Structural Barriers: Inadequate access to transportation, housing, and education.
- Lack of Culturally Centered Care: The percent of maternal health physicians and registered nurses that are Hispanic, Indigenous, or Black is lower than their share of pregnant individuals.
- Lack of Coverage: Women of color are at an increased risk of being uninsured before their pregnancy, and historically, many have lost coverage at the end of the 60-day Medicaid postpartum coverage period, particularly in states that have not implemented the Affordable Care Act.
- Closures: A rise in closures of medical facilities has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color.
The Momnibus Act
The Momnibus Act is a piece of legislation designed to tackle the multifaceted issues that impact maternal health outcomes. It contains thirteen interconnected bills, each addressing a distinct aspect of maternal health and well-being.(1)
- Make critical investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation, and nutrition.
- Extend WIC eligibility in the postpartum and breastfeeding periods.
- Provide funding to community-based organizations that are working to improve maternal health outcomes and promote equity.
- Increase funding for programs to improve maternal health care for veterans.
- Grow and diversify the perinatal workforce to ensure that every mom in America receives maternal health care and support from people they trust.
- Improve data collection processes and quality measures to better understand the causes of the maternal health crisis in the United States and inform solutions to address it.
- Support moms with maternal mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
- Improve maternal health care and support for incarcerated moms.
- Invest in digital tools to improve maternal health outcomes in underserved areas.
- Promote innovative payment models to incentivize high-quality maternity care and non-clinical support during and after pregnancy.
- Invest in federal programs to address maternal and infant health risks during public health emergencies.
- Invest in community-based initiatives to reduce levels of and exposure to climate change-related risks for moms and babies.
- Promote maternal vaccinations to protect the health of moms and babies.
Importance of the First 1,000 Days
In the last decade, scientists and researchers have circled the first 1,000 days (the period from conception to age 2) as the most critical time in a person’s life for nutrition. The concept of the 1,000 days was first established in 2008, when The Lancet, an influential British medical journal, published a landmark series on maternal and infant nutrition. The report concluded that nutrition during this period has a lasting impact through adulthood and that deficiencies can lead to “irreversible damage.”(4)
By age 2, about 80% of the adult brain is formed. This legislation will help ensure that all babies, regardless of race, are supported during their first 1,000 days.
What We Can Do:
International data show that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is more than three times the rate of other high-income countries. In fact, it is the highest it has been since 1965.(5) It’s a crisis that impacts all of us, but disproportionately, black women.(6) Click here to send a pre-written letter to your representative.