A study between the UNC Chapel-Hill and Orange County Health Department, called “Thriving Hearts: Healing-Centered, Integrated, Community Maternity Care,” has been approved for a $21-million funding award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), an independent, nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. The funding award will be used to reduce the incidence of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) and improve maternal outcomes across 10 North Carolina counties over the next six years.

In the United States, rates of maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity are rising, especially among Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women and women with disabilities, low incomes, or rural residences. Black women with HDP – a group of high blood pressure disorders that includes preeclampsia and gestational hypertension – are 3.7 times more likely to die from complications and are more likely to experience severe morbidity than their white counterparts.

The project, led by Alison Stuebe, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UNC School of Medicine, and Quintana Stewart, director of Orange County’s Health Department, will be coordinating with local health departments, families, and community groups to make pregnancy and birth safer. Their project strategy involves a multi-level intervention to provide support and connection at the individual patient level, the healthcare team level, and the community level.

“The overarching goal of ‘Thriving Hearts’ is to cultivate conditions for mothers to not only survive pregnancy, but to thrive,” said Stuebe, who is also a Distinguished Scholar of Infant and Young Child Feeding at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. “By implementing a multi-level intervention, we want to help community advocates, health system leaders, and policymakers understand what types of support matter to growing families.”

Dr. Stuebe is a member of the NC Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, managed by the North Carolina Medical Society.

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