by Abby Buckhouse, Manager, Policy and Advocacy, Generate Health
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted our world in ways we never expected, faster than we ever thought possible. Communities most impacted by high infant and maternal mortality and morbidity rates are the same communities most impacted by the consequences of this crisis. These are the communities that must be centered and prioritized in our response locally, and at the state and federal level. Generate Health, a nonprofit working to advance racial equity in infant and maternal health in the St. Louis region, is aiming to do just that.
Black moms are three times as likely to die than white moms in Missouri, and Black infants face a similar disparity. This disparity existed before COVID-19 hit our region and will continue to exist after we “recover” from this crisis, unless we act. These communities are more at-risk for contracting the virus due to disparities in preexisting conditions, disparities in income requiring folks to go to work and venture out of their homes more frequently to get to resources, and disparities in accessible resources requiring families to travel farther to get to the things they need. Generate Health has responded in a few notable ways.
Generate Health is consistently checking the pulse of our community to adapt and move with them. We learned early in this crisis that our communities need resources and accurate information, so we began a weekly webinar, Navigating COVID-19 for Moms and Babies, to help disseminate resources, share accurate and up to date information, and convene our partners to spread both throughout the region. Topics have included hospital procedures and policies for delivery, Community Health Workers’ observations and calls to action, the census, and more.
Generate Health has been facilitating a community-led grant process for the past year. Our community and our partners shared that there is not enough funding circulating to provide for people’s basic needs, particularly in the Black community. We have shifted these grants to fund groups and organizations that are helping to meet families’ needs during this crisis. Organizations with 501 (c)3 status are eligible for funding, but groups without status are also eligible. Generate Health will help connect these groups with a fiscal sponsor if their grant application is selected.
As our communities begin to move past the initial panic brought by this pandemic and look further to the future, focus has been shifted to the very disparities we have been working on. COVID-19 itself does not discriminate in who it impacts, but when you place something un-biased onto a biased system, those most impacted by that biased system feel the weight of this burden. We are seeing news articles, research, and attention turn to calling out these disparities exacerbated by a health crisis. Generate Health urges decision makers to shift their lens to become racial equity focused. Every decision should be scrutinized asking “who benefits and who will be burdened?” before moving forward. Leaders must look to the most impacted communities for solutions and honor and accept their expertise. Now is the time for us to change the way we do business to rebuild our systems.
Generate Health has always understood that advancing racial equity in infant and maternal health is something we do together, led by impacted communities. As we shift our work to respond to immediate needs, and to address long-term impacts, our commitment does not change. We welcome those who have discovered a new passion for this work, and we continue to support those who have been in this space a long time. We are confident and hopeful that if we listen to impacted communities and prioritize accordingly, we will achieve equity.