The maternal health crisis in the United States is one of dire concern. Earlier this year the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the nation’s maternal mortality statistics for 2020. Instead of moving in a positive direction, the number of deaths from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy or its management (excluding accidental or incidental causes) increased, when compared to the already concerning numbers of 2019. And Black women suffer at higher rates. 

Last week, HeroX, a leading platform and open marketplace for crowdsourced solutions, launched the crowdsourcing competition, “Connecting the Community for Maternal Health Challenge,” on behalf of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to help remedy the disproportionate impact of at-risk pregnant women. As noted in a press release for the initiative, more than 700 people die each year of pregnancy-related causes in the United States, and the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities are stark.

The specific goal of the challenge is to put community-based 501(c)3 organizations in the position to develop and pursue maternal health research in areas that directly impact the communities they serve. The challenge is open to any advocacy, local community, faith-based, or other similar group. HeroX has committed to providing these organizations with assistance to write research proposals and with building the infrastructure required for research.

“Protecting maternal health requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, so we’re excited to get nonprofits on board,” says Kal K. Sahota, the CEO of HeroX. HeroX points to the lack of community engagement, as well as the dismal participation in studies relating to maternal health, as the impetus for the challenge. They are driven by the ability to help address the disproportionate impact of maternal mortality on African American/Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latina women.

This challenge offers participating groups the opportunity to learn how to respond to funding opportunities and how to develop and sustain research capabilities. Over $3 million will be awarded to winning organizations who will also receive non-monetary incentives like accelerator or incubator-type support. “This Challenge will empower community-oriented organizations to serve vulnerable groups in another meaningful way,” says Sahota. “By supporting research that will bring underrepresented women into the conversation, we can better meet their needs and more effectively support their health.”