Perinatal Health Equity Champions Program Kicks Off
A kickoff session was held June 14 for the new Perinatal Health Equity Champions Program, a year-long engagement model designed to build capacity in the birthing workforce to help address racial disparities and improve maternal health care in the Pittsburgh region. The cohort includes 14 Champions from 10 different organizations including doulas, a midwife, a Smart Start coordinator, a finance coach and wellness advocate, a mentor, and four UPMC Magee OB/GYN residents. Seven hospital partners representing three hospital systems – the Women's Institute at Allegheny Health Network, St. Clair Health, and UPMC Women's Service Line at Magee's Women's Hospital – also participated in the initial session.
The Champions Program, facilitated by WHAMglobal and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), aims to address silos between birth workers in the community setting and the hospital setting to drive solutions to holistic care, strengthen continuity of care, and bridge resources across the maternal care continuum. Program participants are being asked to collaborate on how both community and hospital birthworker environments can come together to better understand each other's roles and develop interventions toward improving Black maternal care.
The program is part of the Pittsburgh: A Safer Childbirth City initiative aimed at transforming the city into a safer, more equitable, and more accessible place to give birth, and is administered through seven virtual content sessions running through October, and then it will be followed by a six-month pilot of aligned quality improvement initiatives.
The goal is for Champions to complete and present their work to regional and state healthcare teams and employ lessons learned in their current work environment. For mothers and birthing people to receive a comprehensive and just continuum of care that results in a safe pregnancy and birth, there must be intentional collaboration and support among perinatal health workers across hospital and community levels. At the first session, champions were welcomed, introduced to one another and the program, and created a shared space for discussion using the Pittsburgh Gender Equity Report's guidelines. The topics of systemic racism, Black birth trauma, and how to better understand the current condition and its roots to address issues in care were all discussed.
Participants were also encouraged to reflect on key takeaways from the session and engage virtually on Tomorrow's HealthCareSM, a web-based platform for collaboration, discussion, program content and resources.
Over the years, JHF has demonstrated the important role that leaders or champions play in conceiving, testing, and sustaining quality improvement in health care. Past Champions programs have included Physician Champions, Nurse Navigator, Pharmacy Agents for Change, EMS Champions, Medical Assistant/Licensed Practical Nurse Champions, and Community Health Worker Champions. JHF's Champions Programs have brought process engineering principles, systems thinking, and other quality improvement tools into the hands of the region's healthcare professionals.