The U.S. maternal mortality rate is increasing, particularly for Black women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Aetna Better Health of Maryland, part of CVS Healthis working to change that through a pilot program with maternal health company Mae.
New York City-based Mae is a digital health company that works with health plans and is focused on reducing disparities for Black expectant mothers. Its platform provides weekly check-ins and personalized recommendations, as well culturally competent in-person support from doulas, lactation consultants and pregnancy coaches. It also offers group classes on topics including pregnancy and postpartum. The company was born out of Founder and CEO Maya Hardigan’s own experience.
“As a Black mother with nearly 20 years of experience working in healthcare, I felt personally compelled to found Mae,” Hardigan said in an email. “Black women and our babies are in crisis, as we fare poorer on every measure in maternal healthcare: mortality and morbidity, preterm labor and low birth weight babies, C-sections, and downstream complications stemming from these outcomes. Not only do these risks impact our individual health, but they impact the health of our children, the security of our families, and our communities.”
Through the pilot program, announced last week, Mae’s services will be a covered benefit for Aetna Better Health Medicaid members. The program is intended to further strengthen its current coverage of doula care, said Dr. Gayle Jordan-Randolph, chief medical officer of the insurer. Doulas are professionally trained in providing emotional and physical support to mothers during childbirth, and are shown to decrease cesarean rates and the length of labor.
“Mae is a valuable partner in addressing these disparities, as doula services are an important resource to support maternal health,” Jordan-Randolph said in an email. “Evidence shows that doula care helps lower the rates of maternal health complications and improve health outcomes for birthing parents and their babies.”
In launching the pilot program, the companies ultimately hope to move the needle when it comes to maternal health disparities for Black mothers.
“We aim to fundamentally shift pregnancy and birth experiences and highlight that our community is in fact engaged in our care,” Hardigan said. “We want to return joy to the birth experience for Black women and reduce the fear that often accompanies our journey as we embark on pregnancy and motherhood.”
Depending on the success of the program, the services could expand to other states, Jordan-Randolph said.
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