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Eliminating Racial Disparities in Maternal Health

In Due Season: A Faith-Filled Roadmap Toward 
Eliminating Racial Disparities in Maternal Health

Washington, March 23, 2012 -- The National Council of Churches is moving forward in the development of a project to eliminate racial disparities in maternal health.

The project, "Due Season: A Faith-Filled Roadmap Toward Eliminating Racial Disparities in Maternal Health," will develop congregational materials exploring the intersection of maternal health and race within the U.S. and moving people to advocate for change.


The National Council of Churches has received $25,000 grant from Aetna to support this maternal health initiative along with $2,500 from Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, thus allowing a unique intersection of conversations from both a medical and faith perspective.

According to a 2010 report by Amnesty International, African-American women are four times more likely to die of pregnancy related complications than their white counterparts, while at the same time white U.S. women already have a significantly higher maternal mortality rate than women in 24 other industrialized countries.

"The fact that we continue to see such vast disparities in maternal health along racial lines is deeply troubling," said the Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, Program Director of the NCCís Womenís Ministries. "We are living in the wealthiest country in the world in the twenty first century. Pregnancies should be healthy and safe, regardless of the motherís race."

Working to improve maternal health outcomes for women of color is a natural fit for the NCC, which is the leading ecumenical organization in the country.

"The Church has an obligation to speak to matters of life, death, health and justice," said NCC Interim General Secretary Clare Chapman. "Our member communions regularly witness the pain women and their families endure from avoidable complications in pregnancy and birth. This pain touches us all, and we must unite to press toward a solution."

"Aetna has a longstanding commitment, not only to improving health outcomes through advocacy of racial and ethnic health care equality, but to actively serving the communities in which our employees live and work," said Miguel Centeno, Aetna Managing Director of Community Relations.

"We welcome the opportunity to support an institution as historic and deeply connected to local communities as the NCC, and look forward to the gains this initiative will achieve."

The NCC maternal health initiative -- Due Season -- is based on the "education to advocacy model." It will prepare an online resource churches and others can use to advocate around the issue of improving maternal health outcomes, particularly for U.S. women of color.

The initiative will host a series of focus groups in four target cities - Washington, New York; Philadelphia, and Chicago - during the months of May to August.


In the focus groups, women who have experienced maternal health disparities first hand will be invited to contribute their insights toward the forthcoming resource, as will health care professionals and community advocates who regularly engage this issue.

To receive updates on the resource, or information on how to participate in the focus groups, visit .

The goal of the Due Season project is to create a toolkit with input from medical professionals, church and community leaders, and people with personal experience around this issue. The toolkit will be available for free to help communities engage in study, prayer, and action to end this alarming trend.

This project grew out of the council's experience with the resource Fistula Stories (, which explores maternal health in a global context.


Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell),


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