SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The City of San Francisco will pay Black and Pacific Islander women $1,000 a month during their pregnancies and after birth in a pilot program to study how the monthly support helps achieve better maternal health and birthing outcomes.
The Abundant Birth Project will provide the monthly supplement to approximately 150 women in San Francisco for the duration of their pregnancy and the first six months of the baby’s life, with the goal of eventually providing the supplement for up to two years post-pregnancy, according to a press statement from Mayor London Breed.
The program is being launched in conjunction with Expecting Justice, a Black-led birth justice initiative lead by Dr. Zea Malawa at the San Francisco Department of Public Health and supported by the Hellman Foundation and the UCSF California Preterm Birth Initiative. Expecting Justice will study the resulting health impacts of the program, the first of its kind in the U.S.
According to Expecting Justice, a Black infant in San Francisco is almost twice as likely to be born prematurely compared to a White infant, while the preterm birth rate for Pacific Islanders in the city is over 10%, nearly three points higher than the national preterm birth rate for Asians and Pacific Islanders.
The disparity is not related to race, but rather racism, according to Expecting Justice, citing historically racist policies as well as modern-day discrimination which it says underscore the wealth gap among Black and Pacific Islander communities and other racial or ethnic groups in San Francisco.
Black families also account for half of the maternal deaths and over 15% of infant deaths, despite representing only 4% of all births. Pacific Islander families face similar disparities, according to Expecting Justice.
“Providing guaranteed income support to mothers during pregnancy is an innovative and equitable approach that will ease some of the financial stress that all too often keeps women from being able to put their health first,” said Mayor Breed in a prepared statement. “The Abundant Birth Project is rooted in racial justice and recognizes that Black and Pacific Islander mothers suffer disparate health impacts, in part because of the persistent wealth and income gap.”
Funding for the public-private partnership includes grants from the Hellman Foundation, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s #startsmall campaign, Genentech, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health among other donors.
“Structural racism, which has left Black and Pacific Islander communities particularly exposed to COVID-19, also threatens the lives of Black and PI mothers and babies,” said Dr. Zea Malawa in a prepared statement. “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. It is exciting to be in a city that not only calls out racism as a problem, but also takes steps to heal the wounds left by decades of injustice and anti-Black sentiment.”
In San Francisco, the median annual household income for Black and Pacific Islander families is close to $30,000 and $67,000 respectively, compared with over $104,000 citywide, according to the city.
The Abundant Birth Project will work with local prenatal care providers and the city’s network of pregnancy support services to identify and enroll eligible clients over the next two years. The project will target low-income and middle-income pregnant people with the income supplement given the high cost of living in San Francisco.
The Abundant Birth Project is a collaboration between the Department of Public Health, the California Preterm Birth Initiative at UCSF, UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the San Francisco Treasurer’s Office, the San Francisco Human Services Agency, and First 5 San Francisco.