Maternal Mortality in New York

New York State has one of the highest maternal death rates in the nation and the racial disparities are stark. NYS ranks 30th in the nation, with a rate of 20.6 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2018.

Racial disparities are heightened in New York City, where black women are 9x more likely than white women to suffer a pregnancy-related death. The NYS Department of Health’s latest report on maternal mortality clearly states that the vast majority (78%) of these deaths are fully preventable.


The mPOWHER Project in NYC

While hospital interventions can help to decrease maternal healthcare disparity, community-based intervention can often have an even greater impact on these rates. However, despite a significant increase in the number of community health workers in NYC, there is still no standardized training for this group. The Saving Mothers mPOWHER© Project can change this.

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  1. The Project has two primary components:

    mPOWHER Training Program

    The education and training of Community Health Workers (CHWs) and other frontline maternal health workers, with a focus on identifying at-risk patients, improving patient communication and education, and building patient trust and advocacy.

  2. mPOWHER Mom’s Kit Program

    A complementary program designed specifically for moms entering their 1st trimester, the Kit is actually a diaper bag filled with practical health-empowerment tools, along with valuable information, such as verbal strategies designed to help women challenge the structural racism and sexism they experience when interacting with the current healthcare system.

The two Programs work in tandem to advance both groups’ understanding of health risks and prevention, effective communication, and the power of advocacy. When we encourage positive interaction and lift up pregnant women together with their healthcare providers, the result is true empowerment and a self-sustaining resilience in families and across communities.

mPOWHER Kit Program


What Resources Are Included Within the mPOWER Mom’s Kit?

In NYC, the top 3 leading causes of death are embolism, hemorrhage, and cardiovascular conditions, so we've designed the contents of the kit to correspond to those risks, with tools and information essential to ensuring healthier, happier pregnancies:

  • Blood pressure cuff to reduce the risk of
    cardiovascular issues
  • A Fitbit to track general exercise and encourage better nutrition
  • Information cards with scripts, guides, and other communication tools designed specifically to empower pregnant women through self-advocacy
    • Example: "Could you explain what that test
      is for? I want to make sure I understand"
  • Detailed information on other potential risks,
    such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes

Meet Dr. Chris Zarcadoolas PhD

Chris is a sociolinguist and internationally respected expert in health literacy and public understanding of health and science. She is the lead author of Advancing Health Literacy: A Framework for Understanding and Action (with Andrew Pleasant, PhD., and Dr. David S. Greer, Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2006), called “required reading” for health communication professionals by New England J of Medicine. For over 40 years Chris has designed and executed a wide range of projects to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of patient/public health information and campaigns using an ecological model of health literacy, information processing, and usability methods. She has brought these skills to Saving Mothers, working closely with our team and community members in NYC to identify information needs and to create materials that advance greater health literacy and health equity. Chris has overseen the development of the mPOWHER Community Health Worker Curriculum and the mPOWHER Mom’s Kit.