EMPOWER: A Maternal Health Inequities Research Study

With funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute—and in partnership with three northeastern universities and members of affected communities—CAI is researching service-delivery models that improve early detection and control of postpartum hypertension and the social and mental health factors that impact high rates of maternal mortality.

Maternal death rates have dramatically increased in the U.S. over the last twenty years, most significantly for Black and Native American/Alaska Native women, even when accounting for income and educational status. These differences are attributable to many factors, including underlying health conditions; varying access to quality health care before, during, and after pregnancy; and enduring discrimination and biases that may cause medical professionals to question or ignore women’s opinions and concerns.

The initiative

EMPOWER, a maternal health inequities research study, is a partnership of Yale, the University of Buffalo, the University of Massachusetts, and CAI. The study is addressing persistent disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality and investigating how timely detection of high blood pressure, provision of supportive mental health and trauma-informed care services, and increased provider awareness of racial biases can reduce these problems.

As a partner, CAI has two roles in the research study:

  • Developing and delivering trainings for healthcare providers in implicit bias, reflective practice, and empathic listening in obstetrics.
  • Building the capacity of a Buffalo Community Action Board of community members with lived experience who will review study protocols and provide input and valuable perspectives on ways to improve maternal care delivery.

The impact

The study will measure how postpartum hypertension can be reduced at six weeks and at three months postpartum. It will also measure improvements related to mental health and increases in knowledge and awareness of biases among healthcare providers.

Project funder and key partners

  • Funder: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)
  • Partners: Yale University; Yale New Haven Hospital; John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, NY; and UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, MA

Contact: empower.contact@caiglobal.org