Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative

The U.S. is the only high-income country where maternal mortality is on the rise. Racial disparities are stark and persistent. According to the CDC, Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women, a risk that increases when your lens focuses on cities across the U.S.

The Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative aims to support community-based organizations in U.S. cities with a high burden of maternal mortality and morbidity to implement evidence-based interventions and innovative approaches to reverse the country’s maternal health trends.

Launched in October 2018 by Merck for Mothers, Safer Childbirth Cities fosters local solutions that help cities become safer — and more equitable — places to give birth.


Safer Childbirth Cities is currently funding community-based organizations in 10 U.S. cities to help improve the maternal health outcomes that matter most in their cities. Safer Childbirth Cities grantees work to address the social determinants of health, such as access to care, health literacy, and transportation. Grantees seek to bridge gaps in disparities by promoting health equity. They work with doulas and perinatal support workers to bolster the care support system around women and families during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.

Black Mamas Matter Alliance and its partners are creating a social safety-net model to link women, particularly Black women, to care and critical services that could be scaled to other communities where access to health care is limited.

Baltimore Healthy Start and partners are enhancing the State of Maryland’s Maternal Mortality Review process with Severe Maternal Morbidity reviews, elevating patient experiences to improve quality care, and encouraging postpartum care services to be provided alongside pediatric visits.

Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers and its partners are strengthening citywide data infrastructures to improve connection to services and care coordination for pregnant and postpartum women.

AllianceChicago and its partners are improving the quality and coordination of care to serve women at highest risk, and empowering families and social service providers through community outreach.

ROOTT and its partners are creating a model of community-based full-spectrum perinatal support doula care, with focus for Black women who have limited or no access to insurance, to ensure that they receive relevant, consistent, safe and equitable care.

Mississippi Public Health Institute and its partners are reducing unnecessary caesarean sections, providing community-based support to pregnant and post-partum women, and decreasing adverse maternal health outcomes through specially trained doulas.

Greater Newark Healthcare Coalition and its partners are educating health care providers on the best practices for maternity care, developing a public education campaign to increase women’s awareness of serious complications associated with pregnancy and the post-natal period, and disseminating recommendations to local stakeholders.

The Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies and its partners are identifying and linking birthing people who have unmet health needs and are disconnected from support to quality care and policy solutions.

Health Federation of Philadelphia and its partners will strengthen surveillance and reporting, improve clinical care, integrate community voices in developing solutions, address racial disparities in maternal health outcomes, and increase community-based support for childbearing women through development of a community action team.

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation and its partners are improving coordination and quality of care among local service providers, educating midwives and other health professionals, and building a local maternal health movement.

Collaborative Grantmaking

For 2019, grants awarded by Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative represent the collaborative grantmaking of several philanthropic partners, collectively powering progress for maternal health. For the inaugural class, Safer Childbirth Cities will also be co-funded with the Burke Foundation, The Nicholson Foundation, the Community Health Acceleration Partnership, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Rhia Ventures, and others.