Every 12 hours in the U.S., a woman dies due to complications resulting from pregnancy and every two hours, we lose a baby. Our country is one of the most dangerous places in the developed world to give birth and D.C., in particular, has a maternal mortality rate that is significantly higher than the national rate. We must recognize and urgently address the reality that too many moms are dying or facing serious health complications, too many babies are born too soon or not living to see their first birthday, and far too many of those impacted are moms and babies of color.

Through the Better Starts for All program, March of Dimes is working to ensure all moms and babies nationwide are empowered with tools and resources to have the best start in life. Together in partnership with Reckitt’s Enfa portfolio of brands, March of Dimes is implementing the following programs for families in Wards 7 and 8, which have limited access to quality obstetrics services or birthing sites:

Becoming a Mom: Free, online prenatal education classes for expecting D.C. moms with topics including prenatal care, healthy foods, how to manage stress, things to avoid during pregnancy, preparing for labor and caring for you and your baby.
Supportive Pregnancy Care: Moms-to-be meet for prenatal care, education and support throughout their pregnancies. Group prenatal care is associated with improved maternal and infant health outcomes, including lower preterm birth rates.
Mobile Health Care: The Mama and Baby Bus provides healthcare services including prenatal care, postpartum care and well-woman care provided at the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative and University of Maryland Capital Region Health
Community Coalition: Partner organizations and community members come together to help support the development of culturally and socially appropriate interventions to increase services for women in hard-to-reach areas.

These are the solutions to prevent, eliminate, or manage challenges that may come up in pregnancy. Women can access the Better Starts for All services by visiting betterstartsforall.com/dc, including signing up for the next session of Becoming a Mom on April 29 and to make an appointment on the Mama and Baby Bus.

The CDC reports that of the 700 women who die each year from pregnancy-related causes, 60 percent of these deaths are preventable. Black women are 3 times more likely than White women to die from such causes and their babies are more than twice as likely as White babies to die before their first birthday. In D.C., the preterm birth rate is 74 percent higher for Black women than the rate among all other women. That is simply unacceptable, and we must address the systematic racism that puts the lives of Black moms and babies at risk.

All moms deserve access to respectful, quality care. Lack of access is not simply a matter of geography. Many structural, systemic and environmental factors influence the health of moms and babies, especially for families of color. Through Better Starts for All, we’re knocking down the barriers that prevent D.C. moms and babies from getting the critical care they need and deserve.

Stacey D. Stewart is president and CEO of March of Dimes.

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This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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