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5 area hospitals sign onto 'Mama Certified' to help improve equity in pregnancy care

Ariane Hunter

Five area hospitals are signing onto a program aimed at improving maternal care for Black parents-to-be. "Mama Certified" is designed to help parents assess birthing centers and ensure babies of color receive equitable care. It launches in the spring.

"It is a certification process by which hospitals are saying to Black moms, 'We are here for equitable birthing experiences and equitable birthing outcomes,' " says Cradle Cincinnati Director of Equity and Community Strategies Meredith Shockley-Smith, Ph.D.

She says the program will make data available so people can find the right place for them based on their needs, concerns and experiences.

"If, for example, they have significant barriers to care or essential determinants of health issues, they might look for a hospital (that) is really specializing in that work. Or if they have a high risk pregnancy or whatever the issue might be, really the information is often hard to find. The goal with Mama Certified is mom will be able to find it quickly and make a good choice for herself and her birth experience."

The Christ Hospital Network, Mercy Health, TriHealth, UC Health and St. Elizabeth Healthcare have all committed to the program. The Health Collaborative will compile data the hospitals are already collecting and make it easily accessible and understandable. The data will track four main categories: infant care, maternal care, staff care and community care.

Mama Certified was developed in conjunction with Cradle Cincinnati and Queens Village, among others, to address racial disparities in infant mortality and Black maternal health. Black babies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthdays than white babies. Black women, additionally, tell Cradle Cincinnati and Queens Village they often feel their concerns are ignored by medical providers - that they are unseen and unheard, and therefore don't get or are discouraged about seeking the care they need.

"This is the hospitals saying 'I see this in the national headlines and I understand what you're experiencing, and I want you to know that we are here to give you an equitable outcome and to hear from you what you need to be different and to support better outcomes,' " says Shockley-Smith.

Cradle Cincinnati - which aims to lower the rate at which babies in Hamilton County die before their first birthdays - put its focus squarely on Black maternal health in 2019. The four-pronged approach included increasing community health workers, expanding prenatal care, additional education, and advocacy and training programs to identify and rectify implicit bias in the health care system and by care providers.

Shockley-Smith says the efforts appear to be paying off. She tells WVXU Hamilton County is seeing improvement in the infant mortality rate and is on track to "see extremely low numbers" at the end of the year.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.