HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra praises MLKCH’s maternity program at roundtable discussion on maternal health challenges for women of color
Oct. 6, 2023 – Sec. Xavier Becerra of the U.S. Health and Human Services Agency participated in a roundtable discussion Friday at MLK Community Hospital (MLKCH) about solutions to the nation’s maternal health crisis, specifically poor childbirth outcomes for women of color and their babies.
Becerra praised MLKCH’s award-winning and midwife-led maternity program, which has produced outstanding outcomes for a largely African American and Latina patient population. MLKCH's rate of C-sections is half the state and national average and the hospital has topped Cal Hospital Compare’s Maternity Honor Roll for seven years running.
“At MLKCH families are experience what we all should experience, which is the care and the affection and the sense of real dignity that should happen when you're about to bring someone new to this earth,” Becerra told the roundtable participants, which included MLKCH midwives, clinical experts as well as community partners. “I hope you double down and do even more because [nationally] we still have a problem.”
Significant research reports that women of color often do not feel heard by their medical provider, including their OBGYN, and that African American women are the least likely to be listened to. Poor maternal health outcomes for women of color was why Secretary Becerra joined MLKCH and community experts to discuss the hospital’s unique maternity program – in which mothers are paired with both a registered nurse-midwife and an OBGYN – as a model for how better maternity care might be provided nationwide.
Becerra heard from two MLKCH mothers – Allyson Rainey and Nancy Hernandez – about their positive experiences at MLKCH.
“We were welcomed like family,” Hernandez told the roundtable participants. “The midwives made me feel very safe and they acknowledged everything I was feeling, they gave me options, and knowledge. I felt heard and seen.”
A midwife-led approach to maternity results in better outcomes because midwives are trained to listen and to encourage an empathetic and natural birth experience. At MLKCH, physicians are on hand to provide expert surgical care only in the event of a complication. Although this midwife-led approach might seem obvious it is, as a model, quite rare nationally.
At the roundtable, Becerra noted that MLKCH is one of only 13% of all hospitals in the nation to receive a CMS 5-star rating for excellence. MLKCH, he said, “is a lifeline for so many folks who live in this part of Los Angeles. And the results speak for themselves.”
The HHS chief was joined at the event by Rep. Maxine Waters, California Surgeon General Dr. Diana Ramos, LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell and state Sen. Steve Bradford.
Interested in giving birth at MLKCH? Sign up for an upcoming tour of our maternity department here: https://www.mlkch.org/maternity-tours