California will receive nearly $19.3 million in federal funding for improving maternal and child health outcomes, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on Friday. The financial support is part of a $350 million HHS initiative aimed at strengthening the outcomes of maternal and child health across the nation.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said:
“These investments are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to promote maternal and infant health, and ensure equitable access to affordable, quality health care for our nation’s families. Together, all of the programs we’re funding today will help families get off to a better, healthier start.”
The funding includes $19,028,270 for the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), which will go toward the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. MIECHV is a federal program that helps in-need families care for their children by providing home visitation services.
The state is also receiving a total of $250,000 for the Healthy Start Initiative, which provides aid to communities that have an infant mortality rate at least 1.5 times the national average. This includes $125,000 for both Alameda County and Project Concern International in San Diego.
Healthy Start funding includes money for hiring community-based doulas and increasing infant health equity by creating local action plans to reduce infant mortality in areas with high numbers of Black or American Indian/Alaska Native infant deaths.
The HHS release says the funding is intended in part to address racial disparities in maternal health outcomes. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, even though California’s maternal mortality rates are on the decline and lower than the national average, these rates are nearly three times higher for Black women than for white women in the state.
As seen in the graphs below, maternal depression — both prenatal and postpartum — is far more prevalent among California’s Black mothers than mothers from other demographics.
Acting Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator Diana Espinoza also spoke to the significance of the funding in a statement on Friday.
“We know that many mothers and their children don’t receive the care they need to stay healthy throughout their lives. These programs allow us to better tackle the root causes of these challenges and improve access to care for pregnant women, parents, and infants.”