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Blue Shield of California’s New Maternal and Infant Health Initiative Offers Innovative, Comprehensive Program to Improve Health Equity

Initiative provides community-based resources, doulas, and technology tools to transform support and care for expecting and new mothers, and their babies

OAKLAND, Calif. (February 9, 2022) – Blue Shield of California today announced an innovative community health-focused initiative that incorporates a high-tech, high-touch approach along with collaboration with community-based organizations to help improve support, care, and family-centered services for mothers, birthing people, and their babies.

The nonprofit health plan’s Maternal Child Health Equity initiative offers a comprehensive program  to help address disproportionate mortality rates among mothers and children, especially in underserved communities. Services are available to expecting and new mothers in Fresno, Los Angeles, and Sacramento counties through physician referrals.

“At Blue Shield of California, we’re taking a holistic approach to improving the health outcomes for mothers and their babies,” said Susan Fleischman, M.D., chief medical officer at Blue Shield of California. “We believe this kind of effort is required to make health equity a reality for these moms and their newborns. This is part of Blue Shield’s vision for reimagining health as we seek to make the healthcare system that’s worthy of our family and friends and sustainably affordable for everyone.”

The goal of the initiative is to bring equitable maternity support for mothers. The efforts include:

  • Working with community-based organizations, including Black Wellness and Prosperity Center, Diversity Uplift, and Her Health First to provide training curriculum for doulas and connecting mothers to family-centered services, emergency funds, and maternal supplies.
  • Doulas who are culturally congruent and trauma-informed to help ensure mothers are being heard, supported, and informed during their perinatal experience to help close racially biased maternal care gaps.
  • Collaborating with Mahmee to bring access to health records of the mother and baby, educational materials ranging from nutrition to return to work, and unbiased guidance at every stage of the process.

“Blue Shield of California is transforming care by addressing the ongoing racial health inequities that directly impact the health of mothers and infants,” said DD Johnice, vice president of the health transformation lab at Blue Shield of California. “We are addressing social barriers and disparities by providing the access and culturally relevant support to put an end to the structurally and systematically disadvantaged cycle of mothers being ignored and disproportionately underserved during one of the most important times of their lives.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, maternal and infant mortality is especially inequitable for Black mothers and their babies:

  • In the U.S., Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than White women, and over twice as more likely than non-Latinx White mothers to receive late or no prenatal care.
  • Black infants in the U.S. are more than twice as likely to die than White infants, which is also true within California, per County Health Rankings.

California’s 2020 County Health Rankings report showed Black babies in Los Angeles County were twice as likely to die than Asian and Latinx babies, and three times more likely to die than White babies.

This latest effort is part of Blue Shield’s ongoing work to support maternal and infant health. They include:

  • Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan’s community investment to support Cherished Futures for Black Moms & Babies Initiative and $520,000 support for two maternal/infant health programs in Los Angeles and San Diego.
  • Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan’s Maternity Program and Maternal Mental Health Program, which are designed to support its Medi-Cal and Medi-Connect plan members before, during, and after pregnancy.
  • Blue Shield's collaboration with Maven to help transform maternity care through virtual 1:1 support with specialists to allow for advocacy, personalized telehealth, virtual classes, community forums, and support groups. This program is available to members enrolled in Blue Shield’s employer sponsored plans.

Blue Shield also supports state and federal policies that support maternal and infant health. They include:

  • Participation in California’s new Medi-Cal Doula Services Advisory Workgroup, which seeks to make doula services more accessible. Blue Shield also supports state policies to extend Medi-Cal coverage for 12 months postpartum.
  • In Congress, Blue Shield endorsed Representative Lauren Underwood’s (IL-14) Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (H.R. 959) and supports the inclusion of new investments and programs to improve black maternal health in the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376). Blue Shield also supports federal policy that would require up to 12 months of Medicaid coverage postpartum.

About Blue Shield of California
Blue Shield of California strives to create a healthcare system worthy of its family and friends that is sustainably affordable. Blue Shield of California is a tax paying, nonprofit, independent member of the Blue Shield Association with over 4.5 million members, over 7,500 employees and more than $21 billion in annual revenue. Founded in 1939 in San Francisco and now headquartered in Oakland, Blue Shield of California and its affiliates provide health, dental, vision, Medicaid, and Medicare healthcare service plans in California. The company has contributed more than $150 million to Blue Shield of California Foundation in the last four years to have an impact on California communities.

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