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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Invests in Programs Aiming to Reduce Disparities and Expand Care Access for Expectant Mothers and Babies

New support for community-based interventions and holistic group care

CHICAGO — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) is providing new resources to help improve the health outcomes of pregnant women and their infants in underserved communities across Illinois.

The United States has the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in comparison to other developed countries, and the statistics are worse for women of color. These disparities are leading to worsening health outcomes for pregnant and post-partum women, particularly in low-income and remote communities.  In Illinois, Illinois Department of Public Health data shows that non-Hispanic Black women are six times as likely to die of a pregnancy-related condition as non-Hispanic White women.

Community-based interventions

In an effort to help improve these statistics, BCBSIL is announcing more than $350,000 in grant funding to six community-based organizations working to improve maternal health outcomes on Chicago’s South and West Side neighborhoods. The programs being created or expanded are:

  • Catholic Charities Altgeld Gardens Adolescent Parenting Support program. The funding will support a pregnancy and early childhood (age 5+) home visiting program to increase access to health care and address social determinants of health (SDOH) for young mothers ages 14-25. The program also sends doulas to homes from the 3rd trimester through 8 weeks postpartum.
  • Chicago Volunteer Doulas Doulas for Health Equity program will use the funding to support its birth doulas program, on-call doula program, postpartum doulas support as well as doula training at the Logan Correctional Center.
  • The EverThrive Illinois Chicago Collaborative for Maternal Health, led by AllianceChicago and EverThrive IL, implements a community maternal health intervention that brings together health care and community, social service providers, women and their families, and policymakers to address maternal mortality prevention in Chicago. Grant funds will be used for family education on maternal morbidity and prevention through canvassing, interactive presentations, and train the trainer seminars.
  • The Melanated Midwives Maternal Health Project will use the funding to support educational video medicine visits to prenatal and postpartum support during COVID-19.
  • Peaceful Birth Practices BCBSIL is funding Sisters Circle Too, which is a 6-week community-based training/mentorship program for women of color specializing in promoting leadership in the field of maternal-child health. BCBSIL funding will help educate providers on the importance of doulas and allowing them access within hospitals.
  • The Women’s Care Consulting LLC Enhancing Access to Women's Health Care through Telemedicine program will improve availability of telehealth and counseling in early pregnancy and postpartum.

This Maternal Health initiative is one of the ways BCBSIL is reinvesting payments from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services for providing quality care to Medicaid members. 

“HFS is committed to health equity and better health outcomes on all fronts, especially in maternal health,” said Theresa Eagleson, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. “These investments align with our quality strategy and highlight why our managed care partners are a key part of our efforts to improve health outcomes for moms and babies.”

Holistic group care

BCBSIL is also teaming up with Centering Healthcare Institute (CHI), a non-profit focused on delivering better health outcomes and improving the care experience for patients and their doctors. Through a three-year grant, BCBSIL will be bringing CHI’s CenteringPregnancy program to a number of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) that focus on serving underserved and at-risk populations.

CenteringPregnancy is a nationally recognized model of group prenatal care promoting education and social support by bringing together women in the same stage of pregnancy.

Family Christian Health Center is the first FQHC to begin implementing CenteringPregnancy as part of BCBSIL’s program expansion. It aims to launch the program this summer after it opens the Family Christian Health Center - Maternal Child Health & Wellness location in Harvey mid-April.

“Family Christian Health Center understands that you can’t have healthy communities without healthy women and babies. With African Americans experiencing high rates of adverse birth and postpartum outcomes for mom and baby, it was imperative for Family Christian Health Center to offer a Centering program for both pregnancy and parenting," says Dr. Lisa Green, CEO, and Co-Founder of Family Christian Health Center.  " In Harvey, we see many instances of high-risk pregnancies and studies show Centering Pregnancy and Parenting almost eliminate health disparities and improve health outcomes. We built a health center that focuses on patients who are affected by these disparities in the healthcare system to ensure they have access to quality health care and also mental, spiritual and social support as well."

Early interventions

These programs build on other assistance from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois to help improve maternal and newborn health.

At our Blue Door Neighborhood CenterSM sites we recently hosted a three-week virtual Pregnancy Program with SIDS of Illinois and a virtual community “Baby Shower,”  featuring interactive games, giveaways, and healthy pregnancy and healthy baby education and resources from a variety of partner organizations. Both programs are being planned again for April 2021. Our Community Baby Showers debuted in 2018 in Kane County. Additional 2021 Baby Showers are in development for Springfield, Peoria and Winnebago County.

We also offer special programs for our members, depending on their benefit plan.

Special Beginnings® provides personal attention and information new mothers may need to care for themselves and their baby during pregnancy and up to six weeks after giving birth. Highlights include:

  • A healthy pregnancy calendar.
  • Videos that cover topics such as eating habits, exercise, stress and more.
  • Details about each trimester and the physical and emotional changes in mom and baby.
  • A list of screenings and vaccines to help prepare for checkups.
  • Program support available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., CT.

The Women’s and Family Health program provides access to fertility, pregnancy and parenting resources, including: 

  • Ovia Health™ apps provide members with real-time, personalized support via in-app coaching, articles, videos, tips, tracking tools and more.
    • The apps include Ovia Fertility, Ovia Pregnancy and Ovia Parenting – all of which are integrated with our internal programs, helping to identify and support high-risk pregnancies and complicated births.
  • High-risk maternity management provides telephone outreach and ongoing support to expectant mothers identified with high-risk pregnancies.
  • Well onTarget® has self-guided courses about pregnancy that members can take online, covering topics such as healthy foods, body changes and labor.

“By taking a holistic approach to supporting prenatal care that considers the social and economic factors impacting the health of mothers and newborns, we are working to help create an environment that fosters access to affordable benefits, equitable care delivery and wherever possible, better health outcomes,” said BCBSIL Medical Director Anita Stewart, MD, FAAP, JD, MPH. “We believe these types of early interventions can make a positive impact on the health of the next generation of Illinoisans.”


About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) is committed to expanding access to quality, cost-effective health care to as many people as possible in Illinois. BCBSIL is dedicated to innovation and exploring, nurturing and activating future possibilities to make the health care system work better for our members and our communities. BCBSIL is a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Media Contact

Colleen Miller

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association