Momnibus bills moving through NC General Assembly
The North Carolina General Assembly is taking on the issue of Black maternal mortality this session with bills in both chambers aimed at improving health outcomes for Black birthing people. The bills, referred to as the North Carolina Momnibus Act, also address the social determinants and the implicit biases among health care professionals that may impact the mortality rate disparity.
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Senate Bill 632 and H 507 are identical bills. They would address issues such as requiring the creation of a funded Social Determinants of Maternal Health Task Force within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the creation of a Maternal Mortality Prevention Grant Program and would require DHHS to work with community-based organizations led by Black women that serve Black birthing people and a historically Black college or university to create an evidence-based implicit bias training program for health care professionals involved in perinatal care. The house version passed its first reading on April 12 and has been referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House. Its main sponsors are Reps. Julie Von Haefen, Zack Hawkins, Carla Cunningham and Vernetta Alston. Senators Natalie Murdock, Sydney Batch and Deandrea Salvador are sponsoring S 632. It also passed its first reading and has been referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.
Nationally, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show pregnancy-related mortality rates are 2 to 3 times higher among Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native women.
To improve health outcomes for Black pregnant individuals, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine is launching a pilot program to increase the number of Black doulas in the state. The C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities gave the school a $75,000 grant to seed to program, which will be led by Venus Standard, assistant clinical professor at UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine. Standard said recent research shows reduced infant mortality for Black newborns cared for by Black medical providers.
“Having somebody that looks like you, that understands your struggle, your culture and how to relate to you [is] unquestionably beneficial.”
Standard said doula training costs are a deterrent for people of color, so the award funds will be used to train two cohorts of 10 women who have been recruited from Orange County and surrounding areas. It will cover education, training materials, certification and professional membership fees.
“Oftentimes I would get calls from people that are not white asking, ‘Can I break [training fees] up into payments? Can I spread it over time?’
The program will also provide business and marketing seminars to help newly trained doulas establish viable businesses upon completion of the program.