Excellus BlueCross BlueShield awards grants to address maternal health disparities

Edward Byrnes

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield awards grants to address maternal health disparities

SYRACUSE, NY – Excellus BlueCross BlueShield today announced the first round of recipients of Member and Community Health Improvement (MACHI) grants to address severe maternal morbidity (SMM) and related health equity issues in upstate New York. Eight nonprofit organizations in the health plan’s 39-county service area will share $1 million in grant funding over the next three years.


Among the recipients, Contact Community Services in Syracuse will receive grant funding for the expansion of its 24/7 telephonic perinatal and postpartum maternal mental health follow-up program. The project will serve pregnant and parenting women in Onondaga County.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines SMM as “unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short- or long-term consequences to a woman’s health.” As many as 60,000 Americans each year experience maternal morbidity, including 650 to 750 deaths, according to The Commonwealth Fund. Black, Latina, and Asian women have higher rates of SMM than white women, regardless of age or type of health insurance, according to a recent study of racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health issued by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).


“We have an opportunity and a responsibility to confront the nation’s crisis in maternal health disparities,” says Gina Cuyler, MD, Excellus BCBS vice president of health equity and community investments. “With this first installment of award funding, community organizations will have greater capabilities to support safe pregnancies and childbirth, eliminate pregnancy-related health disparities, and improve health outcomes for new mothers and babies.”


The BCBSA study also revealed that preexisting health conditions going into delivery, such as hypertension, diabetes, or asthma, strongly correlate with higher SMM and worse pregnancy complications, increasing the likelihood of a risky delivery or challenges postpartum. While women ages 35-44 across all populations were identified as most likely to have an SMM event, the study found that Black women in this age range have a 66% higher rate of SMM and are more likely to suffer pregnancy-related complications than white women.


“Contact Community Services is delighted to be partnering with Excellus on this important work. Together we can improve health of mothers and children in our community and offer them hope for a bright future,” says Antara Mitra, executive director, Contact Community Services.


Seven other nonprofit organizations will receive Excellus BCBS maternal health MACHI funding, including: Child & Family Resource Center Inc. (Rochester), Gerard Place (Buffalo), Integrated Community Alternatives Network (Utica), Jericho Road Community Health Center (Buffalo), Mohawk Valley Health System (Utica), Mothers & Babies Perinatal Network (Binghamton), and Mount Hope Family Center (Rochester).


“The grants we announced today will provide needed funding to organizations that are working to address these issues,” says Cuyler.   

Earlier this year, Excellus BCBS invited organizations to apply for MACHI grants to fund programs to eliminate racial, health and geographical disparities, and that support of the National Maternal Health Equity Strategy endorsed by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield operates in 39 upstate New York counties. The health plan’s corporate giving follows all applicable laws and regulations and does not support funding organizations that conflict with its corporate mission, goals, policies or products.