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Birth Justice Pilot Program In San Francisco To Address Inequalities For Pregnant Black People and Pacific Islanders

by Madeleine Janz

Under a new program announced Monday by Mayor Lauren Breed, 150 pregnant Pacific Islanders and Black people in San Francisco will be allocated $1,000 monthly throughout their pregnancies and for six months postpartum. The goal of this program is to create birth equity in a city where pregnant people who are Black or Pacific Islander have higher maternal mortality rates and higher rates of preterm births than their white counterparts.

Black people in San Francisco represent only four percent of births but 50 percent of maternal deaths and over 15 percent of infant deaths, the mayor’s office reported. Similarly, Pacific Islanders in the city have the second highest preterm birth rate. Like in many other major cities, these disparities are a result of wealth inequality.

In San Francisco, these differences are further exacerbated by the billion dollar tech industries that have pushed people from the middle and lower class out of the city or into inadequate living conditions. The median household income of Black and Pacific Islander families is $30,000 and $67,000, respectively, while the general median income is over $104,000.

The initiative called the Abundant Birth Project is in partnership with the Expecting Justice collective led by Dr. Zea Malawa at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. To provide for the first 150 recipients, the project is funded by the Hellman Foundation, the UCSF California Preterm Birth Initiative, and WKKF (Kellogg Foundation) among others. Over the next two years, the project will find it’s recipients by collecting referrals from local pregnancy service providers.

In Monday’s statement Malawa said, “Providing direct, unconditional cash aid is a restorative step that not only demonstrates trust in women to make the right choices for themselves and their families, but could also decrease the underlying stress of financial insecurity that may be contributing to the high rates of premature birth in these communities.” 

This initiative is an opportunity to provide justice and pass on equitable health opportunities to a new generation in an historically unjust city. Over the next two years, The Expecting Justice collective will observe and analyze the results of the pilot program and, pending positive outcomes, will implement the program for a wider base. 

Header image courtesy of Martin Vika via Flickr Creative Commons.

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