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Press Release

ICYMI: Rep. Castor Announces $2 Million Grant to Confront Black Maternal Health Crisis

ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Today, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14) was joined by leadership from Evara Health, formerly the Community Health Centers of Pinellas, to announce a new $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to confront the Black maternal health crisis and improve health outcomes for Black mothers and babies. Rep. Castor was also joined by Dr. Deanna Wathington, MD, MPH, FAAFP, a public health practitioner, family physician, member of the Black Infant and Maternal Mortality Task Force and maternal health advocate, who shared her personal difficulties in accessing quality maternal health care.

In the United States, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women due to significant disparities in quality of care, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism and implicit bias, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“It is unacceptable that Black mothers are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White mothers, due largely to health and social disparities,” said Rep. Castor. “Evara Health has been on the forefront of working together to ensure that moms and babies across Tampa Bay get the care they need, improve health outcomes, confront racial disparities in maternal care and make sure children and their mothers are healthy and have every opportunity to thrive. This significant grant funding will support Evara’s innovative work in improving the lives of many of our neighbors.”

“No matter the education level of a Black woman, her chances of experiencing morbidity and mortality are much higher than other women,” said Dr. Deanna Wathington, MD, MPH, FAAFP. “I am one of those women who, even with my MD and MPH, struggled to get the care I needed after experiencing complications during the birth of my first child. Thanks to the good graces of some of the hospital staff that were involved, I’m still here to tell this story all these years later. But my story is not unique; it is a very common issue that occurs every day, and I’m thankful for the work being done to improve it.”

“It’s inconceivable that in this day and age, women continue to face significant risks during childbirth, particularly those from marginalized communities,” said Elodie Dorso, CEO, Evara Health. “The $2 million grant that we are so excited to have been awarded offers us a unique opportunity to create a lasting impact. With these funds, we can focus on implementing creative and innovative solutions that directly address the underlying causes of the disparities in our community.”

Find photos from today’s event here and a video recording of the press conference here.

This award is one of thirty-five grants made totaling over $65 million to implement innovative approaches to improve maternal health outcomes and reduce disparities for patients at highest risk. Evara Health is the only recipient in Florida to be selected for this grant funding opportunity. This announcement supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s Maternal Health Blueprint, a whole-of-government strategy to improve maternal health, particularly in underserved communities.

HRSA-funded health centers provide essential prenatal care to nearly 550,000 people a year in communities at higher risk of pregnancy-related deaths and deliver more than 160,000 babies annually. Find additional information on Health Center Program awards here.