During Black Maternal Health Week, Butler, Britt, Underwood, Fitzpatrick Introduce Bipartisan NIH IMPROVE Act To Codify Funding For Maternal Care & Mortality Research

Washington, D.C. – During Black Maternal Health Week, U.S. Senators Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) and Katie Britt (R-Ala.) introduced the NIH IMPROVE Act, the Senate companion to Representative Lauren Underwood’s (D-IL-14) and Brian Fitzpatrick’s (R-PA-01) House bill, which would ensure continued funding for research on the maternal care and mortality crisis happening in the U.S.

In 2019, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the Implementing a Maternal Health and Pregnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) Initiative. The IMPROVE Initiative supports research to reduce preventable causes of maternal deaths and improve health care for women before, during, and after pregnancy. However, this critical research program lacks a sustained funding source, threatening research outcomes and conclusions. The NIH IMPROVE Act would authorize consistent funding for this existing program for the next seven years, providing NIH the support and resources to pursue research into the root causes of America’s maternal mortality crisis.

“There are huge gaps in maternal care, especially across racial and socioeconomic lines, and the NIH IMPROVE Act will sustain much-needed research to better understand how we can protect mothers and end preventable maternal deaths,” said Senator Butler.

“This bipartisan legislation will support targeted funding for critical research to improve health outcomes for women throughout their pregnancy journey,” said Senator Britt. “I’m proud to fight for moms and women across Alabama and America.”

“Five years ago, we worked with the National Institutes of Health to start the IMPROVE Initiative to make smart investments in comprehensive research and evidence-based solutions that save moms’ lives and advance birth equity,” said Representative Lauren Underwood. “Our bipartisan NIH IMPROVE Act will advance maternal health research by permanently authorizing funding for IMPROVE, making sure that NIH can continue to carry out life-saving research to end our nation’s maternal health crisis.”

“Too many new mothers do not have access to comprehensive mental health care and substance use disorder treatment, and as a result, maternal mortality rates have spiked,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “Congress must take action to address this crisis, which is why I’m glad my colleagues in the Senate are joining our efforts to ensure high-quality mental health care is accessible and available to new mothers in need.”

The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality among high-income nations and continues to take steps to combat this crisis. In 2021, the U.S. lost 1,205 lives due to pregnancy-related causes. This maternal mortality crisis also affects people of color at disproportionate rates. Maternal mortality rates for Black and American Indian communities are two to four times higher compared to those of White communities. Life-saving research can examine the factors that contribute to these adverse maternal health outcomes and help to end this devastating crisis.

The NIH IMPROVE Act would:

  • Authorize $53.4M annually for seven years to carry out the IMPROVE Initiative and support research on potential causes of maternal mortality and severe morbidity.
  • Approve research that would target disparities associated with maternal mortality and severe morbidity, and aim to reduce preventable causes of maternal deaths.
  • Additionally, the bill would also build an evidence base for improved care and outcomes in underserved maternal care deserts.

The NIH IMPROVE Act is endorsed by over 100 organizations, including the National Birth Equity Collaborative, PreemieWorld, Mental Health America, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, March of Dimes, American Federation of Teachers, Center for Law and Social Policy, Planned Parenthood, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Families USA.

“As a HRSA-funded Maternal Child Health Doctoral Scholar at the Tulane University Mary Amelia Center for Women’s Health Equity Research, I applaud the reintroduction of the NIH IMPROVE Act! Serving as a Doctoral Research Assistant for NIH-funded studies has transformed my educational experience and catapulted my professional aims as a training research scientist. The NIH IMPROVE Act exemplifies that when research is adequately funded, communities will be transformed, disparities can be rigorously examined and eliminated, and our academic institutions will be equipped to invest in the future leaders of the maternal health field,” said Denys Symonette Mitchell, Founder & Principal of Symonette Strategies & Solutions and Doctor of Public Health Student, Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine.

The full text of the bill can be viewed here.


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