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University Health awarded $14 million to improve maternal health

University Health has received two grants totaling $14 million to support two multi-year programs, Mama Bexar and Baby Bexar, designed to improve maternal and infant health outcomes in South Texas.

Maternal health in the U.S. is at crisis levels, with the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world and pronounced disparities among mothers of different ethnic and racial groups.

In South Texas, the problem is made worse by even greater health disparities and lack of access to prenatal care, along with high rates of diabetes and hypertension.

“Providing wraparound services to expecting and new moms will assure healthier pregnancies, healthier babies and more resilient families, healthier communities and lower medical costs downstream,” said Dr. Anna Taranova, deputy chief public health, innovation and equity at University Health. “We know we can do more, and we have a lot of work to do.”

Adding a total of 18 more positions in key areas of maternal health, both programs will build on the success of another federally funded maternal health program, Texas RMOMS (Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies). University Health garnered funding for RMOMS in 2019 and used the funds to work with partners and create a collaborative multidisciplinary maternal health network in South Texas.

University Health is the only organization in Texas to receive these competitive awards, and the only organization in the nation to receive both.

Paired with the opening of our Women’s and Children’s hospital, these two awards represent pivotal long-term investments in improving maternal health in Bexar County, South Texas and beyond. University Health, as the state-of-the-art regional perinatal referral center for 22 counties in South Texas, is the perfect organization to receive these two awards and to significantly impact the health of mothers and babies.

“We look forward to building on our experience, expanding the services, and striving for the best health outcome through compassionate care and extensive collaborations,” Taranova said.

Mama Bexar

Mama Bexar will receive $9M over five years from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau. University Health received one of only five such awards across the country and the only one in Texas.

The Mama Bexar program will leverage and expand the existing specialty care for maternal-fetal medicine, address mental health and health equity, and improve access to care through navigation, support services, and provider and patient education. The multidisciplinary program team will include physicians, nurses, patient navigators, and Licensed Mental Health Professionals.

University Health will add 12 new positions under Mama Bexar – RNs, patient navigators and licensed mental health providers – to work in the community, University Health clinics and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Another part of the grant involves creating a task force to seek continued community feedback on what service are most needed and how to improve them.

Baby Bexar

Baby Bexar will receive $5M over four years from the Office of Minority Health’s Healthy Families Community-Based Perinatal Health Initiative (COPHI) program. University Health received one of eleven awards nationally, and the only one in Texas, and will add six positions to put the program into action.

Baby Bexar is designed to help improve maternal and infant health outcomes by expanding wraparound services, including mental health, transportation and other support services to improve the nonmedical drivers of health, and to address the adverse effects of obesity, hypertension and diabetes on pregnancy, maternal and infant health outcomes. Community collaborators include Catholic Charities’ Birth Doulas of San Antonio, Any Baby Can, Family Service and Alamo Regional Transit. With these partners, the program team will not only provide medical care, but also connect women and families to support services all through a health equity, culturally competent, trauma-informed lens tailored to the South Texas population.

Both programs’ ultimate goals are similar but not the same, Taranova said, and will complement each other with support services provided by University Health and community partners.

“Both programs are innovative modes of care that will improve maternal health and pregnancy outcomes, and reduce racial and ethnic disparities,” she said. “Both agencies expect us to develop strong relationships with the community and maximize the impact on maternal health.”

Mama Bexar is more focused on clinical care, although it has a collaborative element, Taranova said. Baby Bexar is more focused on improving support services that affect nonmedical drivers of health, leveraging existing community resources and strengthening collaborations.

“We know who needs the help and they know how to provide it,” she said.

Maternal Health

Maternal health in the U.S. is at crisis levels, with the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world and pronounced disparities among mothers of different ethnic and racial groups. These two awards will help implement the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. According to the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee and Department of State Health Services Joint Biennial Report, some of the highest rates of severe maternal morbidity (SMM) in Texas are experienced by women who are non-Hispanic Black and have no private payer coverage. Hispanic women experience SMM at a rate 28% higher than that of white women. African American women experience the highest rates of SMM, more than twice the rate for white women. Leading causes of maternal mortality include obstetric hemorrhage, mental health conditions, non-cerebral thrombotic embolism, and intentional injury. Nationally, Texas has the lowest rate of expectant mothers seeking early prenatal care.

For more information on the OMH COPHI program:

For more information on this HRSA program:

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