FILE - Illinois State Capitol

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

(The Center Square) – A new initiative aims to tackle systemic inequities for pregnant women in Illinois.

Created by the Illinois Perinatal Quality Collaborative, the Birth Equity Initiative aims to reduce racial disparities when it comes to pregnancy and birth health outcomes.

Dr. Ann Borders, maternal-fetal medicine physician at NorthShore University Health System, said the initiative is a response to rising maternal deaths particularly among Illinois’ women of color.

“Doing this Birth Equity Initiative really is about hospitals coming together to say that we can do better, and that there are actionable strategies we can take together to make improvements,” she said.

The state’s recent maternal mortality report found health outcomes related to pregnancy for women of color are worse.

“Non-Hispanic black women are about three times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to die during or within a year of pregnancy from a related complication,” Borders said.

The initiative will work with hospitals to screen for social determinants of health, linking women to needed resources and services, and provide patient-centered, respectful, unbiased care among other things. The aim is to get every hospital in the state on board, said Borders.

The Birth Equity Initiative has four key drivers: addressing social determinants of health; reviewing maternal health quality data by race, ethnicity and insurance status to identify opportunities for improvement; promoting a patient-centered approach to engaging patients and communities; and educating providers on respectful care practices and addressing bias.

“We help hospitals get started on those strategies by putting a toolkit together and by having regular monthly webinars where hospitals are going to be learning from each other, and we’ll be collecting data and tracking progress on those strategies,” Borders said.

Social determinants of health play an important role in pregnancy outcomes for women, according to Borders.

“There are issues like access to healthcare, there are issues like the kind of healthcare women get, and the biases they may face,” she said.

Borders says it’s important to understand why these inequities exist, but it’s more important to do something about them.

“We need to take action and that’s what this initiative is about,” she said. “It’s about starting to really say we do have interventions that we can move forward and we need to start that important work.”