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STSI & Partners to Fight Maternal Health Crisis

Standing at St. John’s Riverside Hospital, where 67% of maternity services are delivered to women on Medicaid or Medicaid Managed Care, surrounded by frontline workers, local officials, and advocates determined to change maternal outcomes among Black women, Sister to Sister International, founder, stood with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer as he unveiled a comprehensive three-part plan to address the national maternal mortality crisis and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes nationwide and at the only maternity ward in Yonkers at St. John’s Riverside Hospital, in New York’s fourth-largest city.

Sister to Sister International, Inc. (STSI) links women, girls, and families of African descent globally, to the resources that connect, advance, and strengthen them. STSI published a first ever report on the Status of Black Women & Girls in Westchester County in 2019, revealing major health disparities in Black maternal health outcomes compared to their white counterparts. STSI researched the issue further in Westchester County and found that Black women are more likely to deliver babies with low birth weight (12.4%) than white women (6.9%). This trend continues for premature births (8.4% for white women and 12.0% for Black women) and infant mortality (2.1% for white women and 7.8% for Black women).

Moreover, Black women were 2.3 times more likely to experience such complications. In the Hudson Valley, rates of complications were 214 out of 10,000 births. In 2020, New York exceeded the national average for maternal morbidity and maternal mortality.

“We are truly in a state of emergency when it comes to black maternal health outcomes and we need all hands-on deck, therefore STSI is pleased to partner with US Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, St. John’s Riverside Hospital, Lower Hudson Valley Perinatal Network and Birth from the Earth, Westchester County government, along with various community partners using a collective impact approach to improve outcomes” said Cheryl Brannan, STSI founder.

During the press conference U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, said “The bottom line is that Black women in New York are at an increased risk of complications, injury and worse related to childbirth and that is just not acceptable. The U.S., is falling behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to maternal health outcomes, including right here in New York, irrevocably and unconscionably altering families, communities and failing thousands of children who lose their mothers in preventable circumstances.”

Leader Schumer unveiled a comprehensive three-part plan to address the national maternal mortality crisis and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes nationwide and at St. John’s Riverside Hospital, the only maternity unit in Yonkers - New York’s fourth-largest city.

Schumer said that in the upcoming recovery packages he will first fight to secure major investments found in Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021. Second, he will push to make permanent enhancements to Medicaid coverage for pregnant woman and new mothers, including instituting yearlong postpartum Medicaid coverage and expanding Medicaid benefits to include doulas and midwives. Finally, Schumer announced that he will push to invest over $500,000 in the St. John’s Riverside Hospital (SJRH) racial equity project, a crucial community-driven, multi-pronged effort to sustain and improve Maternity services in Yonkers, through his congressionally directed spending requests this year.

NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins was also a major advocate at the press conference.

NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins who has worked with STSI since they launched a “Maama Kit” Safe birthing Initiative for women in Africa, over a decade ago with the World Health Organization.

Since then, the glaring racial and ethnic disparities in maternal mortality have fueled a national health crisis, right here in the U.S. We in the New York Senate Democratic Majority are committed to tackle this crisis by passing legislation that addresses the unacceptable disparities in maternal mortality which is especially high among Black women in communities like Yonkers. That is why we championed legislation to extend the postpartum coverage period for Medicaid recipients for one year. I support Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s fight to pass the Maternal Health Momnibus Act, the investment in St. John’s Riverside Hospital (SJRH) racial equity project and making the extension of Postpartum Medicaid Coverage permanent. These strategies will save lives, empower women and create safe and respectful birthing experiences,” said NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

St. John’s Riverside Hospital was the host of the press conference. “For over 150 years, St. John’s Riverside Hospital has strived to provide comprehensive medical and nursing care in a compassionate, professional, respectful and ethical manner to every patient. Recently, with the guidance of St. John’s Committee to Address Regional Equity in Healthcare, we seek to address the significant disparities in maternal health outcomes such as maternal mortality, premature births, low birthweight births and our percentage of cesarean sections in our black community,” said Ronald J. Corti, President/ CEO at St. John’s Riverside Hospital.

STSI and community partners have been partnering with St. John’s Riverside Hospital on a Black Maternal Health initiative with interventions designed to promote racial equity and improve birth outcomes for Black women.


STSI looks forward to working with Senator Schumer, Senator Cousins, St. John’s Riverside Hospital, Westchester County government and community partners on ending racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health. For more information check out our Still I Rise Report on our website s2si.org



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