L.A. Care Health Plan Launches Initiative to Improve African American Maternal and Infant Mortality Rates

Initial Investment Totals $1 Million for Eight Organizations

LOS ANGELES – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that African American women in the United States are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women, and the infant mortality rate is highest among African American babies. L.A. Care Health Plan, the largest publicly operated health plan, is committed to helping close this historic and widening health disparity gap. Today, the health plan announced that it has launched the Generating African American Infant and Nurturers’ Survival Initiative (GAAINS). This first round of grants in the initiative will provide $1 million to eight community-based organizations, clinical providers, and local perinatal network coordinators.

While improving access to care and promoting healthy behaviors is important when it comes to maternal and infant mortality, this initiative will address the structural barriers, including race bias and discrimination, that lead to poor health outcomes,” said John Baackes, L.A. Care CEO. “L.A. Care is proud to fight the toxic stress that has impacted African American mothers and babies through an innovative system that will support family nurturers who act as a buffer to that persistent stress.”

The nurturers include mothers, fathers, extended family members and non-relatives who provide socio-emotional, financial, spiritual and other supports to birthing people.

One of the health centers receiving an L.A. Care GAAINS Initiative grant is St. John’s Community Health in South L.A.

"St. John's Community Health is excited for this opportunity to improve maternal and infant health for African American families,” said Jim Mangia, St. John’s President and CEO. “Within a culturally-affirming environment, St. John's will use a group-based approach to provide perinatal support throughout South Los Angeles and Compton that addresses the socio-economic stressors that impact birth outcomes in the African American community.  We are excited to participate in creating interventions to improve health outcomes for African-American women and children.”  

Diversity Uplifts, Inc. is one of the community-based organizations receiving a grant.

Through the GAAINS grant, the team at Diversity Uplifts will ensure that more Black families that are in perinatal need are partnered with a skilled Black Doula,” said Sayida Peprah-Wilson, PsyD, Executive Director for Diversity Uplifts. “The grant also will allow us to expand our Doula mentorship and ongoing training for our committed Doulas, who are themselves Black women from the communities that we serve.”

The eight organizations to receive the first GAAINS initiative grants will be working on a wide variety of projects to improve African American maternal and infant health outcomes, including increasing the capacity of doulas, midwives, and lactation consultants, which will also strengthen communication with health care providers. Other projects will work to implement strategies to advance health equity by implementing culturally sensitive and appropriate prenatal and birthing practices for clients of 17 community health centers and 40 hospitals. These projects will benefit hundreds of African American birthers, nurturers, and their newborns across Los Angeles County.

The eight grantees are:

  • Breastfeeding Task Force of Greater Los Angeles – Long Beach, San Pedro, Carson, Downey
  • California Black Women’s Health Project – Inglewood, Carson, San Fernando Valley, South Bay, Long Beach
  • Communities Lifting Communities-Cherished Futures – South L.A., South Bay, Antelope Valley
  • Eisner Health – Downtown L.A., South L.A., South Bay
  • Frontline Doulas, Diversity Uplifts Inc. – Los Angeles County
  • PHFE-CinnaMoms - South L.A., Bellflower, South Bay, Pomona
  • Project Joy – Antelope Valley, including Lake Los Angeles and Littlerock
  • St. John’s Community Health – South L.A.

The GAAINS Initiative aligns with L.A. Care’s commitment to advancing health equity,  working to ensure that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. The initiative provides services and care that target quality improvement efforts to reduce disparities and supports L.A. Care’s Board-approved Statement of Principles on Social Justice and Systemic Racism.