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CareOregon, Healthy Birth Initiative launch postpartum pilot program to support food access for Black/African American expectant members

Oct 26, 2022, 22:55 PM

This year, in partnership with Multnomah County’s Healthy Birth Initiative, CareOregon launched a Postpartum Meal Delivery pilot program to address food insecurity and improve maternal and infant health outcomes in Black/African American families. The program provides prepared, nutritious meals to pregnant members and their families for six weeks around the birth of a child—alleviating a key stressor for new parents.

The impact of systemic racism on the Black/African American community includes disparities in nutrition and overall health, with African American babies in Multnomah County more likely to be low- or very low-birth weight and/or born prematurely.

“What makes this pilot program so interesting is the focus on meals as a lever to reduce health disparities among Black/African American parents and their newborns during the postpartum period,” said Maegan Pelatt, Director of Provider Engagement at CareOregon.

“New parents face so many challenges, from sleepless nights to needing to navigate new routines. By providing healthy meals, we hope to give families more time to bond and reduce household stress.”

The impact of childbirth on one’s health is considerable. Preparing and accessing healthy food becomes a major barrier to nutrition, especially for low-income families and those who live in food deserts. Additionally, increased costs and demands can also lead to stress and food insecurity, all of which impact the physical and mental health of new parents and their newborn.

The pilot program tackles these barriers by providing new parents and their families with seven meals per week delivered to their home for a duration of six weeks. The meal service begins two weeks before birth and continues for four weeks postpartum.

“One of our primary goals is to provide mothers with the support they need postpartum, and we’re so excited about this partnership and program and all the ways it can help new mothers,” said Dianne Clay, Healthy Birth Initiative case manager.

“Like they say, it takes a village! Preparing and providing food for new mothers and their families is just one way we can help them during a difficult time in postdelivery. Relieving the stress of being concerned about how you're going to be able to feed yourself and your family while you're also recovering from giving birth is part of what makes this program effective.”

It’s also been shown that food insecurity leads to lower rates of breastfeeding. Access to food and adequate nutrition plays an important role in helping parents recover from childbirth and produce breast milk essential for an infant’s development.

“Another important goal with these food deliveries is to have moms be able to breastfeed, and one of the things that we found effective is the nutrition piece of it,” Clay said. “Breastfeeding can be a challenge, especially for new mothers, so having access to consistently nutritious meals during a pivotal period is really an important piece of the puzzle.”

Pregnant members are referred into the pilot through HBI, a program in partnership with Multnomah County that works with African American/Black pregnant individuals and their families to support maternal and child health. HBI home nurses will have a conversation with clients about their needs around food access. Once referred, CareOregon will process the referral request based on the pilot program’s criteria. The criteria are simple—the HBI client must identify as African American or Black, be pregnant, and be insured by CareOregon during their perinatal period of care.

Once approved, the catering company Miss'ipi Chefs prepares and delivers the food when the client is ready. Clients are able to choose from varying nutritious meals that provide adequate access to protein, vegetables and fruits. An estimated 200 African American/Black moms with CareOregon coverage will receive services throughout the duration of this pilot program.

“We’re confident that this program will help increase the overall health of new mothers and infants,” Clay said. “Programs like this break down barriers, specifically racial systemic barriers. They provide access to nutritious foods, especially for mothers who are in poverty or live in food deserts. And as we know, adequate nutrition makes all the difference in the lives of both the mother and child.”

About Multnomah County’s Healthy Birth Initiative

Healthy Birth Initiative (HBI) is a partnership among the Multnomah County Health Department, program participants, various health and social service providers and the community. HBI works with African American/Black pregnant women and their families to support maternal health, the delivery of healthy birth weight babies and healthy families. The program uses a culturally specific home visiting model and the evidence-based Nurse Family Partnership model to provide education and support to participating women throughout their pregnancies and until their children are up to two years old. HBI also includes and supports fathers and other involved males who are key to healthy pregnancies and healthy families.

About CareOregon

For more than 25 years, CareOregon has offered health services and community benefit programs to Oregon Health Plan members. Today, we support the needs of more than 500,000 Oregonians through three coordinated care organizations, a Medicare Advantage plan, a Tribal Care Coordination program, a dental care organization, and in-home medical care with Housecall Providers. CareOregon members have access to integrated physical, dental and mental health care, and substance use treatment. We believe that good health requires more than clinics and hospitals, so we also connect members to housing, fresh food, education and transportation services. CareOregon is a mission-driven, community-based nonprofit with offices in Portland, Medford and Seaside, Oregon.