Maya Wiley Releases Preventing Maternal Mortality Plan

Wiley’s plan attempts to dismantle racism in the public healthcare system by building birthing centers in communities of color and establishing maternal health as a mayoral priority

Black women in New York City are eight times more likely to die than white women – 60% of these deaths are preventable

Maya’s plan to prioritize maternal health is the fifth installment of “50 Ideas for NYC”

NEW YORK – On day five of her “50 Ideas for NYC,” Maya Wiley unveiled her plan to prevent maternal mortality. This policy attempts to dismantle structural racism in the public healthcare system and end the spate of maternal deaths that disproportionately affect people of color in New York City. Wiley’s vision takes the following steps to address the racism that pervades our healthcare system, expand paid to care benefits, and ultimately, will save lives. The plan includes:

  • Build birthing centers in communities of color that have the highest maternal mortality rates;
  • Expand midwifery services;
  • Create a council of midwives and doulas to help inform, craft, and implement policies and strategies related to maternal health;
  • Establish maternal health as a mayoral priority, and create a City Hall Office to lead citywide work on maternal health;
  • Create a midwifery pipeline by funding programs in the City’s nursing schools;
  • Provide greater access to at-home screenings for anxiety and postpartum depression;
  • Prioritize data collection develop knowledge on the ongoing scale of the crisis;
  • Fight to expand paid time-to-care programs;
  • Promote federal and state initiatives and funding for safe births.

“Our healthcare system has failed women of color around New York City. People in these communities are dying every day because we have not invested in their neighborhoods or taken proactive steps to look out for their wellbeing,” said Maya Wiley. “We need to invest in the safety of New York City’s mothers. Being pregnant while Black should not be deadly. Untangling the web of structural racism and lifting the burden of gender oppression demands bold acts of governance and dedication to what is right. My plan recognizes that maternal mortality is a crisis in our city, and takes necessary steps to bring an end to these needless and tragic deaths.”

New York City has a higher mortality rate compared to the U.S. as a whole, a tragedy which falls disproportionately on Black and Latinx New Yorkers. Black women are 8 times more likely to die and three times more likely to almost die than white women, and at least 60% of these deaths are preventable. In 2017 alone, Black women gave birth to 23% of New York City’s babies, yet they accounted for 55% of the maternal deaths recorded that year. Between 2,500 to 3,000 NYC women suffer from severe maternal morbidity every year, with Black women experiencing these health effects three times and Latinx women twice as often as white women. Structural racism is a primary contributor to poor health, resulting in underinvestment and undercare in neighborhoods where people of color live and limiting access to high-quality health care and social services, healthy foods, and other resources critical to good health and pregnancy outcomes.

Wiley’s plan brings a comprehensive and bold approach to addressing the maternal mortality crisis. The full plan can be viewed here. As Mayor, Maya will support the following:

Direct $4.35M to build birthing centers in communities of color with high maternal mortality rates at every city-owned H+H hospital as well as a freestanding location on the North Shore of Staten Island: Non-hospital, midwife led birthing services lead to better birthing outcomes, of the 40 birthing facilities in New York City, only 2 are holistic birthing centers. H+H sites are located in neighborhoods that have historically had the highest rates of maternal mortality.

  • Maya will use funds from her New Deal New York economic plan to construct a holistic birthing center at each of the 11 city-owned hospitals and one freestanding center in Staten Island so there is access in every borough, in particular in areas with high rates of maternal mortality.

Expanding integrated midwifery services within the H+H hospital system. Twenty-four percent of births (and 27% of births to Black women) occur at City-owned hospitals, yet a majority of them do not offer these services currently.

Create a council of midwives and doulas to help inform, craft, and implement policies and strategies related to maternal health. The council will be appointed by the Mayor and work closely with relevant agencies to craft and launch a citywide program to address structural factors that impact maternal mortality outcomes, racial disparities, and ensure a safe, healthy recovery birthing process for both parents and children.

Establish maternal health as mayoral priority and create a formal City Hall Office to lead citywide work on maternal health. 

  • Establish NYC Perinatal Health Taskforce made up of the DOHMH Commissioner and H+H President, Deputy Mayor of HHS, Office of Gender Equity, Office of Gender-Based Violence, NYC Commission on Human Rights, and community-based leaders and activists.

Encourage and fund midwifery programs in the City’s nursing schools, particularly at CUNY colleges. In addition to building the infrastructure for mothers to give birth safely in a non-hospital environment, Maya will encourage development of midwifery programs. Maya will:

  • Work with CUNY colleges and licensed midwives to establish a pipeline to midwifery programs for people of color including doulas; and
  • Strive to lessen financial barriers to attending midwifery school.

Expand the DOHMH home visit program and provide greater access to at-home screenings for anxiety and postpartum depression, and connect families to relevant mental-health services. The expansion of this program was planned and then held because of COVID. Maya will:

  • Restart the expansion of the home visit program;
  • Guarantee all pregnant people access to 1 prenatal visit and multiple postpartum visits.

Prioritize data collection to increase access to accurate and up-to-date data about the scale of this crisis so we can improve birthing outcomes for New Yorkers. Maya will require all providers make detailed reports, including clinical details and patient demographics, to the NYC DOHMH.

Fight to expand paid time-to-care programs at the state and city level. Promoting healthy, safe pregnancies requires ensuring parents have the resources they need to heal and thrive outside of the hospital or medical setting. Strong workplace protections and paid time off are essential to lowering maternal mortality, and we must fight to expand existing State and City paid time-to-care provisions that afford expectant families comprehensive space to recover, bond, and address follow-up care. Maya will fight to:

  • Eliminate the wait period for and increase the amount of NYS Temporary Disability Insurance;
  • Extend NYS Paid Family Leave beyond the current 12 weeks to care for seriously ill family members;
  • Extend these safety net programs to people working for small employers;
  • Ensure that all expecting people have access to workplace protections by reviewing the ACA, NYS and NYC pregnancy and breastfeeding accommodation laws;
  • Allow expecting parents to attend all prenatal visits without fear of losing their job by enacting stricter workplace protections;
  • Advocate for NYS to opt into Medicaid coverage extension for postpartum primary care as now permitted by Federal law.

Promote Federal and State initiatives and funding for safe births. In March 2019, the Governor announced programs to increase funding for midwives, create a SUNY scholarship set-aside for midwives “to address diversity,” expand community health worker programs, and institute loan forgiveness for education of under-represented minorities training to practice maternal health. Maya will:

  • Hold the Governor accountable to put these vital programs in place;
  • Work with state government to expand and support the New York State Doula Pilot Program;
  • Advocate for federal legislation to strengthen maternal healthcare, including The Black Maternal Health Momnibus, a comprehensive packet of bills sponsored by the Black Maternal Health Caucus members.

Maya’s plan to address the maternal mortality crisis is the fifth installment of her “50 ideas for NYC”, which will continue to highlight the many ideas Maya has proposed throughout this campaign to make New York a better city for everyone.

Maya has been endorsed by 1199SEIU, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, State Senator Michael Gianaris, Former Assembly Member and current DNC Vice Chair Michael Blake, Assembly Member Deborah Glick, Assembly Member Khaleel Anderson, Assembly Member Latoya Joyner, Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Steve Levin, and former City Council Member Jimmy Vacca. She has also received the endorsement of New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN) and Democracy For America.

Since entering the race, Wiley has introduced several innovative policy proposals, including her New Deal New York, a piece of her economic vision that will create 100,000 jobs; a plan to save small business; a Universal Community Care plan to provide $5,000 grants for the 100,000 most in-need New York City; her Community First Climate Plan; an education plan that hires 1,000 teachers; a proposal to combat gun violence; and a plan to fight evictions.