Community baby shower in Pennsylvania supports Black maternal health

In recognition of Black Maternal Health Week, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Pennsylvania and Oshun Family Center, a nonprofit organization that provides wraparound care grounded in a reproductive justice framework, hosted Beautiful Beginnings: A Community Baby Shower. The event, held at Smith Playground in Philadelphia’s Fairmount area on Saturday, April 15, celebrated parents and babies and connected attendees to resources for culturally attuned maternal care.

Black Maternal Health Week, April 11–17, is a national campaign founded and led by Black Mamas Matter Alliance to build awareness of the high maternal mortality rates for birthing individuals who are Black and to improve Black maternal health. The annual campaign also highlights innovative solutions being put into practice by and for the Black community. Locally, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney made Black Maternal Health Week an official city observance as of this year.

Addressing racial disparities in maternal and infant health

Statistics show that mothers and infants who are Black have a higher mortality rate than other racial groups in the United States. In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for individuals who are Black was 2.6 times the rate for individuals who are white.1 The mortality rate for infants who are Black is 2.4 times the rate for infants who are white.2

A 2022 report from the Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review Committee found that Pennsylvania had an overall pregnancy-associated mortality ratio (PAMR) of 82 deaths per 100,000 live births. Pregnant individuals who are Black had the highest PAMR, at 163 per 100,000 live births.3

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies many factors that contribute to these disparities, including variation in quality of health care, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism and implicit bias. Social determinants of health prevent many people in racial and ethnic minority groups from having fair opportunities for economic, physical and emotional health.4

To improve maternal and infant health outcomes, health care systems need to transform their culture. This includes reducing barriers to care, increasing advocacy and access, offering patients evidence-based information, and supporting Black-led maternal care that is respectful and culturally relevant.

Connecting attendees to vital resources

Beautiful Beginnings: A Community Baby Shower hosted over 300 attendees. During the event, we offered informational handouts on Medicaid, maternal health screenings, healthy food options and vaccines, and we provided support for vendors supplying free food.

Resources, including Sesame Street books and healthy eating plates, were distributed free of charge. Oshun Family Center and other community-based organizations offered lactation support services, doula education and vaccination information. Car seats, Pack ’n Plays, and strollers were distributed to new and expecting parents in attendance.

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Pennsylvania is committed to addressing maternal health disparities and to raising awareness of how access to equitable and relevant care throughout the perinatal journey impacts birthing experiences and outcomes. 

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