Understanding – and Improving – Perinatal Health in North Carolina

Blog | January 7, 2020


Becoming pregnant and giving birth bring various mental, physical, and financial stressors, even when everything goes right. But in North Carolina, as in many other states, poor infant and maternal mortality rates, especially for women of color, present additional worries. In 2017, more than 800 babies died before their first birthday in North Carolina, and maternal mortality rates for Black mothers are at least 1.5 times greater than for white mothers in the state.


But there is hope, as can be seen in the pages of the latest issue of the North Carolina Medical Journal. Though there is ample room for improvement in perinatal health care – especially when it comes to equity and access to care – there are clinical and policy strides being made to address the problem.


The issue brief authors – Kelly S. Kimple of NC DHHS; patient and family advocate Latoshia Rouse; Walidah Karim-Rhoades, director of the Center for Women’s Healthcare and Maternal Fetal Care at Cone Health Women’s Hospital; and Kathryn Menard, vice chair for obstetrics and director of maternal fetal medicine at the UNC School of Medicine – lay out the statistics in stark relief, but also provide some encouragement.

“The unacceptable disparities that remain despite some overall improvement in outcomes warrant full attention,” they write. “This issue of the NCMJ highlights the state of perinatal health in North Carolina; the importance of a risk-appropriate perinatal system of care; the opportunities for supporting our parents, children, and families; and how we as a state and as a community can come together to improve the safety and experience of giving birth in North Carolina and beyond.”


Click the links below to read the articles in this issue. For more information on the NCIOM’s work on improving perinatal health in North Carolina, visit the Perinatal System of Care Task Force webpage.



Leveraging an Academic-Practice Partnership to Improve Maternal and Child Health Outcomes in North Carolina [Scientific Article] by Isabel Morgan, Christine Tucker, Diana Urlaub, Tara Owens Shuler, and Dorothy Cilenti


Awareness, Knowledge, and Travel-related Risk Factors for Zika Virus Among Latinas Attending a Federally Qualified Health Center in Rural North Carolina [Scientific Article] by Serena S. Zhou-Talbert, Stephanie Y. Lee, Nadja A. Vielot, Anna C. Silver, Jennifer Anna, Catherine R. Webster, and Sylvia Becker-Dreps


The State of North Carolina’s Perinatal Health [Issue Brief] by Kelly S. Kimple, Latoshia Rouse, Walidah Karim-Rhoades, and M. Kathryn Menard


Infant Mortality: Access and Barriers to Quality Perinatal Care in North Carolina [Invited Commentary] by Tamara Bradham Atkinson


Levels of Care for Perinatal Health [Invited Commentary] by John E. Wimmer, Jr.


Using LOCATe to Improve Neonatal and Maternal Outcomes [Sidebar] by Kathryn A. Mitchell


Perinatal Substance Use Disorders Treatment [Invited Commentary] by Melissa Godwin, Sherri Green, Hendree Jones, Starleen Scott Robbins


Navigating Perinatal Care in Western North Carolina: Access for Patients and Providers [Invited Commentary] by Carol C. Coulson, Shelley Galvin


Maternal Mental Health MATTERS [Invited Commentary] by Mary Kimmel


Neonatal and Early Infant Development [Sidebar] by Melissa R. Johnson, James M. Helm


Medicaid Coverage for Pregnant Women: A Pathway to Healthy Outcomes for Moms and Children [Invited Commentary] by Whitney Tucker, Ciara Zachary


Addressing Maternal Deaths in North Carolina: Striving to Reach Zero [Invited Commentary] by Maria J. Small, Belinda Pettiford, Tara Owens Shuler


Perinatal Disparities and Solutions [Sidebar] by Shafia M. Monroe


The Power of Connection, Trust, and Voice: Perinatal Support Through Community [Invited Commentary] by Amanda Brickhouse Murphy


Disparities in Infant Mortality: Examining Perinatal Periods of Risk [Running the Numbers Column] by Vito Di Bona, Kathleen Jones-Vessey, and Sarah McCracken Cobb


Early Home Visiting to Improve Child and Family Well-being [Spotlight on the Safety Net Column] by Michelle Ries


A Report from the NCIOM: Perinatal System of Care Task Force [Report Brief]