Preventing Maternal Mortality in New York

Being pregnant while Black in America shouldn’t be deadly. New Yorkers, especially those of color, are facing a maternal health emergency. Every year, 700 women die from pregnancy and birth related complications and over 50,000 suffer severe complications in America. Reviews of maternal deaths have shown that at least 60% of the deaths are preventable. Maternal deaths and illness are declining across the globe except the United States (ranking 56th in the world for maternal mortality) where rates have been increasing at an alarming rate over the past 20 years. Recent studies have shown that the driving forces behind this increase are structural racism and gender based oppression.

Maya Wiley is proposing a path forward to address the structural racism and implicit bias that pervades our healthcare system, expand paid time-to-care benefits, and ultimately, save lives. Every pregnant person, regardless of color, immigration status, insurance, disability, language, or pre-existing mental health, substance abuse or physical condition should be able to have a safe and joyous birthing experience.

To accomplish this, a Wiley administration will:

  • Establish maternal health as a mayoral priority.
  • Expand and improve midwifery and doula services city-wide.
  • Fight to expand paid time-to-care programs at the state and city level.
  • Promote Federal and State initiatives and funding for safe births.

To make maternal health a mayoral priority, we will:

  • Task the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to lead and coordinate citywide work on maternal health.
  • Direct $4.35M to build birthing centers at every city-owned H+H hospital, and one freestanding center on the North Shore of Staten Island, targeting communities of color that have had the highest instances of maternal mortality.
  • Establish a NYC Perinatal Health Taskforce that includes 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 leaders and activists.
  • Prioritize and mandate maternal data collection to increase access to accurate and up to date data to improve birthing outcomes for New Yorkers.

To expand and improve midwifery and doula services city-wide, we will:

  • Expand integrated midwifery services within the H+H hospital system.
  • Create a council of midwives and doulas to help inform, craft, and implement policies and strategies related to maternal health.
  • Encourage and fund midwifery programs in the City’s nursing schools, particularly at CUNY colleges.
  • 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.

To expand paid time-to-care programs, we will:

  • 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.
  • Enact stricter workplace protections for expectant parents so they can attend all prenatal visits without fear of losing their job or income.
  • Advocate for NYS to opt in to the extension now permitted by Federal law of Medicaid coverage for postpartum primary care to a full year

To promote federal and state funding for safe births, we will:

  • Work to hold the Governor accountable to put in place 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.
  • Work closely with the state government to expand and support the New York State Doula Pilot Program.
  • Advocate for federal legislation, including The Black Maternal Health “Momnibus,” a comprehensive packet of bills sponsored by the Black Maternal Health Caucus members