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HHS Launches New Maternal Health Resources for American Indian and Alaska Native Communities

December 2, 2022
Contact: OASH Press Office

HHS Launches New Maternal Health Resources for American Indian and Alaska Native Communities

Washington, D.C. — On Thursday, December 1, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra attended the White House Tribal Nations Summit where he discussed the Department’s commitment to address mental and maternal health in American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities. As part of HHS’ commitment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Office of Minority Health (OMH) launched a new Hear Her campaign segment that works to improve AIAN maternal health outcomes by raising awareness of life-threatening warning signs during and after pregnancy and improving communication between health care providers and their patients. The Hear Her campaign centers on the stories of women who have experienced pregnancy-related complications.

American Indian and Alaska Native women are two times more likely than White women to die of complications related to pregnancy,” said Rear Admiral Felicia Collins, M.D., HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and OMH Director. “Through the CDC and OMH partnership, we have expanded the existing Hear Her campaign to create culturally appropriate resources that amplify the experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native women, while giving them tools to advocate for their health and well-being during and after pregnancy. The campaign also emphasizes the importance and role of health care providers in providing respectful care.”

“We are immensely grateful to the women who have shared their powerful stories through the Hear Her campaign, and to the families and communities that have supported them,” said Wanda Barfield, M.D., Director of CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health. “By generously and bravely sharing what they went through, these women are helping to improve outcomes for mothers and future generations.”

In the United States, more than 700 women die each year as a result of complications due to pregnancy. The CDC estimates that more than 80% of these pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. Disparities exist for pregnancy-related deaths and are noticeably high for Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women. For American Indian and Alaska Native people, ongoing and historical trauma due to colonization, genocide, forced migration, and cultural erasure contribute to health inequities, including pregnancy-related deaths and other maternal health conditions. Consequently, American Indian and Alaska Native people are more likely to have underlying chronic health conditions, and they face systemic barriers to care including higher rates of poverty and needing to travel long distances to receive quality health care services.

Given the maternal health disparities that AIAN people and communities experience, it is a priority for CDC and OMH to reach tribal communities with resources. In January 2021, CDC and OMH distributed a “Dear Tribal Leader Letter” to inform tribal leaders across the nation of our intention to develop resources to serve American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Later, CDC held in-depth interviews and focus groups with American Indian and Alaska Native pregnant and postpartum people, support people, and health care providers, to better understand their needs and how the Hear Her campaign might serve them. In January 2022, the National Indian Health Board hosted a discussion session Exit Disclaimer to share an update on the formative work and offer an opportunity for public input on plans for developing resources. In October 2022, CDC held a pre-release partner briefing with the Area Indian Health Board Directors and other public health practitioners. That briefing offered another opportunity for community input before the resources were finalized and completed.

CDC and OMH have worked to include the voices and perspectives of American Indian and Alaska Native people throughout the development of the campaign and will continue to do so over time. As the campaign moves forward into implementation, the focus will be on building capacity for tribes and tribal serving organizations to implement the campaign and improve maternal outcomes.

For more information on the campaign, visit


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works 24/7 protecting America’s health, safety and security. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are curable or preventable, chronic or acute, or from human activity or deliberate attack, CDC responds to America’s most pressing health threats. CDC is headquartered in Atlanta and has experts located throughout the United States and the world.

The Office of Minority Health (OMH) is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority and American Indian and Alaska Native populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities. Through its demonstration projects, OMH supports the identification of effective approaches for improving health outcomes and promotes the dissemination and sustainability of these approaches.

12/2/2022 2:47:00 PM