Released: April 26, 2023
Delaware County Council Chair Dr. Monica Taylor, Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer and Delaware County Health Department Director Melissa Lyon participated in a press conference hosted by U.S. Senator Bob Casey and Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon on April 25 at the Delaware County Courthouse.
The press conference highlighted substantial funding for the Delaware County Health Department. Senator Casey and Congresswoman Scanlon worked to secure $954,000 in community project funding that will allow the Delaware County Health Department (DCHD) to create a new workforce development program to train Perinatal Community Health Care Workers (PCHW) and doulas who can work to reduce racial disparities in maternal health.
The program also aims to reduce racial and economic disparities in maternal care through education, targeted training, and deployment of doulas in communities that have the highest disparities in maternal and child health outcomes. The goal of this program is to ensure that Delaware County women will receive the support they need to assist in healthy pregnancies and deliveries, as well as reduce disparities in maternal and birth outcomes.
Senator Casey and Representative Scanlon fought for this community project funding to improve maternal health outcomes in Southeastern Pennsylvania and bolster the health care workforce.
“When the Delaware County Health Department applied for community project funding, it struck me that infant mortality rates were three times higher for babies born to Black mothers than those born to white mothers here in Delco,” said Senator Casey. “If we are not keeping moms and babies safe, then we are not doing enough to keep our Nation safe. By investing in community health workers, this project invests in those who know their community best, making them uniquely suited to provide the proper maternal health care to their neighbors.”
The disparate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color has brought a new focus to health disparities, including the longstanding inequities in maternal and infant health. Additionally, with Roe v. Wade now overturned, there are increased barriers for people to access abortions, which is also expected to disproportionally impact people of color.
Many low-income families in Delaware County have challenges accessing healthcare and some families struggle because English is not a first language. Those challenges are also compounded by the fact that the Delaware County community recently lost a birthing hospital- Delaware County Memorial Hospital- which serves a large population, many of which are low-income and English is not their first language.
There is a crisis in Delaware County and throughout the nation regarding maternal and infant mortality. Black and Brown women are three times more likely to die during childbirth compared to White women. And research also shows that Black women are at significantly higher risk for severe maternal morbidity, such as preeclampsia. And Black women have higher rates of admission to the intensive care unit during delivery compared to White women. There are clear racial disparities in maternal and infant health and it’s critical that we work to raise awareness and create change.
"Every mother in our community deserves to live a happy, healthy life with her baby, but tragically, our country has the worst maternal health outcomes in the developed world, and Black women are three times more likely to die from childbirth than white women," said Rep. Scanlon. "With this new federal funding for additional maternal health care workers and doulas, Delaware County is taking urgently needed action to reverse these alarming trends and protect our mothers and babies. I'm grateful for Senator Casey and Delaware County's partnership in advancing evidence-based solutions that will save lives and reduce disparities.”
Members of the newly created Delaware County Maternal Child Health Committee also attended the press conference. In February, County Council and the County Health Department formed the Delaware County Maternal Child Health Committee to address the critical public health issues facing mothers and children in our community. The Committee is working to address the disparities in maternal health outcomes in Delaware County. Subcommittees will be formed in other key areas of concern, including concerns that will be identified by the upcoming Delaware County Needs Assessment.
“The Committee’s expertise and passion surrounding maternal and children’s health can help the County to prevent deaths and also greatly improve the overall health and well-being of women, babies, and children across the county,” said Dr. Taylor. “As Council and the County Health Department gain valuable information and data, we can utilize the community project funding to work to improve maternal health outcomes in Delaware County. Our goal is that every pregnant woman has a healthy pregnancy and their babies have a healthy start when they are brought into this world.”