UNCP awarded $500,000 grant to address racial disparities in maternal, infant health

Dr. Veronica Hardy
Dr. Veronica Hardy

UNC Pembroke has been awarded a three-year, $500,000 grant to reduce racial disparities for expecting and parenting mothers in rural southeastern North Carolina.

The grant was awarded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina as part of the company’s effort to decrease racial disparities in maternal and child health care in North Carolina by 50 % in five years. Funding will support the Health Equity Project, which is designed to improve maternal health through service provider education.

Faculty will plan, develop and implement training activities using evidence-based strategies to reduce and address structural racism and implicit bias among healthcare and education professionals who engage with mothers who are pregnant or parenting. Similar training will be offered to health and education students.

“I am thankful for this grant opportunity to confront racial disparity outcomes experienced by expectant and parenting mothers in rural communities located in southeastern North Carolina by facilitating structural racism and implicit bias training for healthcare and education professionals,” said Dr. Veronica Hardy, a professor in the Department of Social Work and principal investigator for the grant.

Teenage pregnancy and infant mortality have long been pressing public health concerns for Robeson and surrounding counties. North Carolina had 8,255 total pregnancies among teenagers aged 15-19 in 2018. Robeson County teenage pregnancy rates (per 1,000) are noted as 32.3 (White), 37.6 (African American), 47.1 (Hispanic), and 53.3 (American Indian).

Southeastern North Carolina has a higher than state average infant mortality rate for African American infants (12.7) than white infants (5.3).

“Through an interdisciplinary approach across the Department of Social Work, Department of Kinesiology and the School of Nursing, a holistic approach toward training will be implemented in addition to delivering a train-the-trainer model for sustainability of these efforts beyond the grant-funded period,” Hardy said.

Training workshops will include promoting health and education professionals’ understanding of racial equity in health care and school settings, analyzing health and educational data through a racial equity lens, conceptualizing health and education professionals as influencers in addressing racial inequities in health care and school settings.

The university will be utilizing several community partnerships with the initiative including the Robeson County Health Department, Healthy Start CORPS, the Public Schools of Robeson County and Scotland County Schools.