Excellus BlueCross BlueShield today announced the first round of recipients of Member and Community Health Improvement (MACHI) grants to improve maternal health and health equity in upstate New York. Eight nonprofit organizations in the health plan’s 39 county service area will share $1 million in grant funding over the next three years.


Among the recipients are Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) and Integrated Community Alternatives Network (ICAN).  Funds will support Mohawk Valley Health System’s CenteringPregnancy® program and ICAN’s Maternal Health Equity for Pregnant Homeless Teens program.

“We have an opportunity and a responsibility to confront the nation’s crisis in maternal health disparities,” says Gina Cuyler, MD, Excellus BCBS vice president of health equity and community investments. “With this first installment of award funding, community organizations will have greater capabilities to support safe pregnancies and childbirth, eliminate pregnancy-related health disparities, and improve health outcomes for new mothers and babies.”


Black, Latina, and Asian women have higher rates of severe maternal morbidity (defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short- or long-term consequences to a woman’s health) (SMM) than White women, regardless of age or type of health insurance, according to a recent study of racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health issued by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The study also revealed that preexisting health conditions going into delivery, such as hypertension, diabetes, or asthma, strongly correlate with higher SMM and worse pregnancy complications, increasing the likelihood of a risky delivery or challenges postpartum. While women ages 35-44 across all populations were identified as most likely to have an SMM event, the study found that Black women in this age range have a 66% higher rate of SMM and are more likely to suffer pregnancy-related complications than White women.

“The CenteringPregnancy® program provides an innovative, evidence-based model of group care that effectively addresses the complex social needs of pregnant women,” said Patricia Charvat, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategy at MVHS. “We are so appreciative to Excellus BCBS for this grant which will help us expand the CenteringPregnancy® program to more women in our community who have difficulty accessing prenatal care.”

ICAN CEO/Executive Director Steven Bulger shares, “We are grateful to Excellus for supporting our impactful work with young, homeless women who are pregnant and/or parenting and addressing the overall health and well-being of each of our 24/7 residents. We will offer innovative, comprehensive prenatal and postpartum care, transitional housing, and a supportive peer community as well as service coordination and connection to community partners.”

The eight nonprofit organizations across the health plan’s 39 county service area that will receive funding, include:

Child & Family Resource Center Inc., Contact Community Services, Gerard Place, Integrated Community Alternatives Network (ICAN), Jericho Road Community Health Center, Mohawk Valley Health System, Mothers & Babies Perinatal Network, and Mount Hope Family Center.

“The grants we announced today will provide needed funding to organizations that are working to address these issues,” says Cuyler.

Earlier this year, Excellus BCBS invited organizations to apply for Member and Community Health Improvement grants to fund programs to eliminate racial, health and geographical disparities, and that support of the National Maternal Health Equity Strategy endorsed by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield operates in 39 upstate New York counties. The health plan’s corporate giving follows all applicable laws and regulations and does not support funding organizations that conflict with its corporate mission, goals, policies or products.

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