Durbin, Duckworth Announce Nearly $5 Million In Federal Funding To Help Improve Infant Health Outcomes And Reduce Racial Disparities In Illinois

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded five organizations in Illinois a total of $4,990,000 in federal funding to help reduce racial disparities in infant health. Today’s funding, awarded through HHS’s Healthy Start Initiative: Eliminating Disparities in Perinatal Health program, will seek to improve health outcomes before, during, and after pregnancy, and reduce racial and ethnic differences in rates of infant death or adverse outcomes. 

“No nation as rich and advanced as the United States should have new moms and infants—especially women and babies of color—dying at the rates we are currently seeing. It is a national tragedy,” Durbin said.  “Today’s funding is a step forward to improve outcomes and help babies of color. I will also continue my work to pass legislation in Congress that can provide more robust federal funding for programs that support organizations working to end racial disparities in infant and maternal mortality.”

“It is absolutely unconscionable that hundreds of expectant and new moms are estimated to have died from preventable causes in this country since I gave birth to Maile,” Duckworth said. “This heartbreaking national crisis, which disproportionately impacts women of color and those living in underserved or more rural areas, must be addressed through federal investments like these and new legislation. I’ll keep working alongside Senator Durbin to make sure no other woman dies from preventable causes on what should be the most special day of their lives.” 

Under this announcement, the following organizations will receive funding: 

    • Access Community Health Network (Chicago, IL): $1,070,000
    • Cook County (Chicago, IL): $950,000
    • SGA Youth & Family Services NFP (Chicago, IL): $1,070,000
    • Southern Illinois Health Care Foundation, Inc. (Sauget, IL): $950,000
    • University of Illinois-Chicago (Chicago, IL): $950,000

Every year, more than 23,000 infants die in the U.S., largely due to factors that, in many cases, could be prevented – birth defects, pre-term birth/low birth weight, and maternal complications. African American infants in America are twice as likely to die as white infants – a racial disparity that is greater than it was in 1850. Currently, the U.S. ranks 32nd out of the 35 wealthiest nations when it comes to infant mortality. 

Next week, Senators Durbin and Duckworth, along with Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02), will be reintroducing their legislation to help lower America’s rising maternal and infant mortality rates and reduce racial disparities in health outcomes. The Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA) Act, aims to improve care women receive before, during, and after pregnancy. Based on a number of ideas recommended by the Illinois Department of Public Health’s 2018 Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Report, The MOMMA Act would:

  • Expand Medicaid coverage for mothers up to one year postpartum (versus 60 days in current law) with full federal funding for this expansion population;
  • Improve coverage and access to doulas;
  • Improve hospital coordination and reporting on maternal outcomes;
  • Ensure adoption and implementation of best practices for improving maternity care; and
  • Create regional centers of excellence to improve implicit bias and cultural competency training among health care providers.