Despite being one of the wealthiest nations in the world, the U.S. lags significantly behind other high-income countries in maternal health outcomes. The traditional healthcare is not sufficiently supporting birthing parents and their families, leading to devastating consequences.

American women have the highest maternal mortality rate of any high-income country, largely due to poor access to prenatal care, high rates of C-sections, and an increased rate of chronic diseases. Even when insured through their employer, pregnant people and their families face high costs, low quality of care, insufficient or no paid leave, and a lack of access to specialized, culturally competent care before, during, and after their pregnancy journey.

Understanding the increased burden on Black families

These negative outcomes are even more severe for Black birthing parents and their families. Black mothers suffer maternal mortality at rates three times higher than their white counterparts, and the rates of preterm birth and low birthweight are higher among Black babies than white. These stark disparities can be attributed to the fact that providers spend less time with Black patients, tend to overlook their symptoms and complaints, and reduce contact with them during the important postpartum period.

Systemic racism fuels provider bias at its core, and the effects of racism extend well beyond the treatment Black people receive in the doctor’s office. According to Maven’s Director of Health Equity, Dr. Dawn Godbolt: “Research has shown that living in a racialized society raises stress levels among people of color, and this stress is impacting the physical health of those who experience it. By the time many birthing parents are at the age where they start a family, the physical impacts of this stress can be absolutely devastating and tragic. All of these disparities are byproducts of systemic racism, and we see it manifest in our mothers and babies failing to thrive.”

All of these disparities are byproducts of systemic racism, and we see it manifest in our mothers and babies failing to thrive.

How Black Maven members interact with virtual care

Simply put, the traditional healthcare system doesn’t provide Black parents the resources they need to thrive. As the complete digital health benefit for those starting and raising families, Maven focuses on improving outcomes for all families, especially those disproportionately affected by healthcare disparities.

Maven recently conducted research to discover how Black members use our platform, highlighting the areas where our benefit—and telehealth as a whole—can make a positive impact for Black parents on their family journey. We presented our findings, which looked at first-time birthing parents who were Maven members, at the 2022 ACOG Annual Clinical & Scientific Meeting. Compared to white Maven members, we found:

Black members were more likely to have medical and social risk factors, even in an employer-based benefits program. Black members reported they were more likely to experience pregnancy-related anxiety, and also ranked higher on the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), which looks at socioeconomic status, household composition and disability, minority status and language, and housing type and transportation.

Black members were significantly more likely to seek virtual care through Maven. Black members had double the number of virtual appointments and sought more appointments with each provider type. Over a third of Black members had an appointment with a doula, and 29% sought care with an OB-GYN. Black members also met with birth planners, mental health specialists, and midwives at higher rates than their white counterparts.

From this data, we can infer two key takeaways: first, despite receiving the same employer-sponsored benefits as white employees, Black employees have greater risk factors. This disparity shows us that the traditional healthcare system isn’t fully meeting the whole-person needs of Black employees and that they would benefit from additional support to fill in these gaps in care.

Second, there is a clear demand for specialized care among Black birthing parents, as evidenced by their increased utilization of virtual care appointments with a range of specialists. Increasing Black employees’ access to virtual, specialized support during the family-building journey can be a powerful way to reduce existing disparities.

Improving outcomes for Black parents through virtual care

We know that virtual care has a high utilization among Black parents, and the impetus falls on health plans and employers to build a supportive virtual infrastructure to improve outcomes for Black members. A high-quality virtual care program should offer the following to members:

  1. Increased access to specialists: The needs of expecting parents and their families extend beyond what can be covered in a 15-minute OB-GYN or pediatrician appointment. Black parents benefit from the ability to connect with a range of specialty care providers throughout their family journey, including doulas, midwives, birth planning specialists, mental health therapists, lactation consultants, and more. 
  2. Provide culturally-humble care: Virtual care should expand the pool of providers available to Black families beyond the limitations of physical location, meaning that Black members can meet with a provider who shares their same background and cultural experiences. Research shows that care matching promotes greater trust and communication with patients, reducing healthcare disparities for historically marginalized groups.
  3. Connect members to community and resources: Offering access to community support and clinically-backed resources can help to improve health literacy among Black members and connect them with a group of like-minded peers. These resources can further empower Black members to advocate for themselves in healthcare situations.

How Maven can help support Black parents

Maven Clinic is the complete digital health benefit for starting and raising healthy families, designed to complement existing medical coverage and fill in gaps during the family-building journey. Through Maven’s platform, employees have 24/7 access to a range of maternity care specialists, resources, and virtual classes to improve the health of birthing parents and their babies. Maven addresses existing disparities by:

  • Providing high-quality care to families: Maven is offered at no additional cost to employees, giving them on-demand access to a range of providers. The average appointment rating with a Maven provider is 4.9/5, with a 70 NPS for members. Additionally, Maven members experience 20% lower C-section rates and 32% lower NICU admissions. 
  • Reducing health inequities through culturally competent care: 38% of our providers identify as Latine, Black, Asian, or Middle Eastern, and 8% identify as LGBTQIA+. Providers speak over 30 different languages, including Spanish, French, Hindi, and Hebrew. 
  • Increasing access to specialty care: Through Maven, employees have free, 24/7 access to providers in over 30 specialties and 120+ sub-specialties, including midwives, adoption coaches, fertility coaches, doulas, mental health providers, nutritionists, sleep coaches, and more.

As your organization looks to improve support for Black employees, Maven is here to help. Schedule a demo with our team today to see how Maven supports working families, retains talent, and reduces costs.

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