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NCDHHS works to improve birth outcomes and health of all individuals of reproductive age

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RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is working collectively with more than 100 statewide partners to improve the health of all people of reproductive age, with a focus on infant mortality, maternal health and maternal mortality.

In North Carolina and nationally, the infant and maternal mortality rates are much higher for Black infants and mothers than for infants and mothers who are white and non-Hispanic. Similar gaps are noted with American Indian/Indigenous populations. The 2022-2026 Perinatal Health Strategic Plan is part of NCDHHS’ priority work to improve child and family wellbeing. The plan will serve as a guide to the state to create the opportunity for every person to have good health regardless of social and economic factors.

“Historic inequities in our economic and social systems continue to impede Black, Indigenous, and People of Color from achieving the best possible health,” said Belinda Pettiford, MPH, the Women, Infant, and Community Wellness section chief. “The economic and social crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the urgency to ensure that individuals and families have the best possible chance at a healthy life.”

The statewide plan is in support of the NCDHHS priority on child and family well-being and outlines three primary goals: addressing economic and social inequities, strengthening families and communities, and improving health care for all people of reproductive age.

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“Strengthening our focus on infant and maternal health is critical to nourishing the well-being of our communities across North Carolina,” said Kelly Kimple, M.D., MPH, senior medical director for Health Promotion. “We are committed to the goals of the Perinatal Health Strategic Plan and ensuring people of reproductive age get the care and support they need prior to, during and after pregnancy.”

An example of one strategy within the plan is to expand the use of evidence-based models of perinatal care, including doula services. NCDHHS was recently awarded a community-based doula grant to support the NC Healthy Start Baby Love Plus Program. In collaboration with the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe and Opportunities Industrialization Center of Rocky Mount, funds will be utilized to hire and train doulas to provide services in Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash and Pitt counties.

NCDHHS will work with multiple organizations, counties and communities as they take ownership of different parts of the plan so that the overall goals can be achieved. The Perinatal Health Equity Collective meets bi-monthly and works to find alignment opportunities with other initiatives throughout the state, including Healthy NC 2030.

The Perinatal Health Equity Collective welcomes anyone interested to join by emailing PHSPquestions@dhhs.nc.gov.

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