Experts in the fields of maternal health advocacy, health policy, hospital management, doulas, and midwifery shared current practices and initiatives to reduce maternal mortality last week at a GNYHA, Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS), and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) Symposium on Racial Disparities and Implicit Bias in Maternal Health.

Held under the auspices of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s initiative to address maternal mortality and reduce disparities in outcomes, leaders of the Maternal and Child Health Bureaus from the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) shared their maternal mortality reduction efforts and reported on the latest State and City maternal morbidity and mortality data. The meeting included feedback from DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker, MD, JD’s recent statewide listening tour, a series of forums for mothers to share their prenatal and postpartum health care experience.

Angela Marshall, Founder and Director of Comprehensive Women’s Health in Washington DC, discussed implicit bias and its effect on communication between provider and patient. Northwell Health and Mount Sinai Health System representatives highlighted their efforts to reduce disparities and improve the patient experience. Northwell Health discussed their development of a bundled approach to address disparities in maternal health, including educating the whole hospital team on implicit bias and equitable care for all patients. Mount Sinai Health System described their development of system-wide unconscious bias training for all staff. SUNY Upstate Medical University discussed their ongoing work reviewing the medical curriculum and the future of new tools and resources to teach medical students on health disparities.

General symposium themes included the importance of using information learned throughout the listening tour to guide future action steps, consideration of health literacy levels, and the need to improve providers’ communication skills with cultural competency training. The symposium included recommendations to improve the data infrastructure to include analysis of race and ethnicity across all fields, fund implicit bias training for health care providers and staff and simulation trainings on implicit bias for medical students, and redefine postpartum care with a corresponding reimbursement structure. Symposium materials and subsequent recommendations will be shared with the Governor’s office and the Taskforce to Address Maternal Mortality.