Press Release – Infant Mortality in Harlem


For Immediate Release

Contact: Max Smith
Phone: 516-415-9243


Harlem, NY (October 26th, 2015) – Maternal Intentions, a Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership initiative, in association with Merck for Mothers, today announced that it is now accepting member enrollment in its Harlem-based program for women at high-, or increased-risk for maternal mortality or morbidity (maternal deaths or illness or complications resulting from or related to childbirth). The program, which is free, is open to women ages 18-44 who live in Harlem, have had a previous pregnancy complication, pre-term or low birth weight baby, or suffers from a chronic illness like obesity, diabetes or hypertension. A service-intensive program, Maternal Intentions will be open five days a week, Monday-Friday, from 9am-8pm and will provide individual health coaching, nutrition and fitness classes, support groups, and referrals to services as needed, including housing, job training/education, healthcare, and other social services. There are no income requirements and to ensure accessibility to the diverse Harlem community, languages spoken include English, Spanish, French, Fulani, Bambara and Creole; childcare is available for children up to 12 years of age.

Maternal Intentions(MI), launched in December of 2014, under a three-year $1.5 million grant from Merck for Mothers, in response to the disturbingly high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in black and Hispanic women throughout Harlem. Nationally, maternal mortality and morbidity rates (MMR) have been rising for over a decade. The maternal mortality and morbidity rate for NYC has been higher than the national average for the last forty years, at 23.1 deaths per 100K live births (twice that of the U.S. as a whole); with Central Harlem exhibiting the highest MMR of any neighborhood in Manhattan at 35.5 deaths per 100k live births.

MI program director Patricia Bernard said two groups in New York have been especially hard hit: black and Latina women. African American women in NYC are seven times more likely to suffer a childbirth-related death as white women, and Hispanic women in New York City die from childbirth at twice the rate of non-Hispanic white women.

Studies show that maternal mortality and morbidity have been linked to certain chronic diseases: obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes being prevalent among them, particularly among black and Hispanic women.

“It’s a hidden crisis and we have to address it through collective community action,” said Bernard.

Calling MI’s approach multi-pronged, Bernard said it is important to get women to recognize that childbirth is always a risk, with increased dangers for women with chronic illnesses, or health complications, including poor diet or health management.

“Building awareness is step one,” said Bernard, ‘like opening an unlocked door.”

“Step two is stepping through that door by providing education and tools like doula and referral services, and instilling the importance of consistent, ongoing medical care throughout the pregnancy. That’s where behavior change comes in, and that’s where we can begin to make a difference.”

MI is working to improve maternal health in Harlem by providing education, behavior change, policy change and advocacy. Program administrators said they are outreaching to city, state and federal officials to advocate for policy change that supports doula and other health care services for pregnant women with chronic conditions, as well as building linkages with hospitals, faith leaders and community organizations.

The program plans to enroll up to 150 women at high-risk for mortality or morbidity and provide individual coaching, home visitation, birth and post-partum doulas, referrals for housing and other social services, educational classes, mental health screening, breastfeeding, stress reduction, nutrition classes, weight management and monitoring, and family planning. MI will also target all women of child-bearing ages in Harlem, an estimated 70,000, and provide general support services, including health education and connections to necessary healthcare providers and other resources.

To enroll for services women can call 212-665-2600, ext. 201; visit; or walk into the Maternal Intentions office at 127 West 127th Street, Suite 107. Women can also be referred by individuals or organizations. MI’s growing list of referral partners include, the Charles B. Rangel Community Health Center, Harlem Hospital Center, Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, NY Presbyterian/the Allen Hospital, and the Ryan/Adair Community Health Center. Referrals are encouraged, services are free and there is no income criteria.

Engagement and Policy Director, Claudia Boykins said, “We talk about the value of black and brown lives. This is a part of that. It’s getting black and Hispanic women to understand that our lives matter too; and that the best way to ensure that you have a healthy child and a healthy pregnancy is to take care of you.”

The program is seeking corporate, foundation and government support in order to increase the number of high-risk women it can serve. To learn more, or to lend your support, contact ———.

XXX: Boiler plate about Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership and Maternal Intentions.

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