HARRISBURG — On Wednesday, the Department of Human Services (DHS) announced the Commonwealth was awarded more than $249,000 in funding over two years to study the effects of Medical Assistance to promote racial equity in pregnancy and child health care.
DHS will partner with the University of Pittsburgh in this study with the funding coming from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
“We know that our nation needs to work to reverse distressing trends in maternal mortality, and we need to improve outcomes for people of color relative to white populations,” said Acting DHS Secretary Meg Snead. “With this grant funding, we will be able to directly see the effects our policies are having on maternal and infant health equity. DHS has the ability to review and assess our Medical Assistance policies, so it is incumbent upon us to promote racial equity in pregnancy and child health.”
State Medical Assistance programs are the largest single-payer for pregnancy and birth in the United States, covering 65 percent of births of black babies. In Pennsylvania, there is a large disparity in mothers dying giving childbirth between white and black women.
DHS and the University of Pittsburgh will work with various community partnerships — including Healthy Start and Medical Assistance Managed Care Organizations — to conduct interviews with people who have received medical assistance so the organizations can learn about the patients’ experiences, find desired policy changes and gain perspectives about the new Medicaid policies.
DHS hopes this research can determine how equity-focused maternity care affects racial equity in health outcomes and can identify next steps and community partners to implement other policies. Full results of the research will be available at the end of the two-year grant period.
Pennsylvania is currently implementing several changes to its Medical Assistance policies in order to advance racial equity in pregnancy and child health.
The RWJF funding will help DHS and the University of Pittsburgh research the early effects of these policy changes on maternal and infant health equity, and are part of DHS’ larger mission to promote racial equity in its programs and activities, outlined in its Racial Equity Report and the Roadmap to Whole Person Health.
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