coalition building; community engagement; community-based participatory research; equity; health disparities; maternal mortality; social determinants of health


Maternal and Child Health | Medicine and Health Sciences | Public Health | Women's Health


This article describes how a multi-sector coalition focusing on carrying out recommendations of the Philadelphia Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) engages community participation through the development of equitable strategies that culminate in the implementation of actionable methods to improve perinatal outcomes.

The U.S. maternal mortality crisis continues to impact countless families and communities. Despite having some of the finest academic medical centers in the nation and a functioning county-level maternal mortality review committee, the maternal mortality rate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is far above the national average. Vital statistics show that Philadelphia’s rate of pregnancy-related deaths from 2012 to 2018 was 20 per 100,000 live births (Mehta et al., 2020), which is higher than the 2018 national rate of 17.4 per 100,000 live births (Lu et al., 2018). Philadelphia is the poorest of the nation’s 10 largest cities with more than a quarter of its 1.58 million people living in poverty. Racial inequities, substance use, and cardiovascular conditions have been identified as having a significant impact on higher death rates among pregnant and parenting people.

To efficiently address the recommendations that come from the Philadelphia MMRC, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health formed an action team. Organizing Voices for Action (OVA) is comprised of a multidisciplinary group of local stakeholders, including lived experience experts. Centering community voices and maintaining equitable practices have been embedded in the formation of the coalition by drafting an equity plan, with an equity statement and quarterly audits for accountability. Prioritizing stakeholder and community engagement foster collaboration in addressing root causes of maternal mortality.