Investing to Reduce Racial Disparities in Maternal-Child Health

Kathryn Finney
3 min readApr 11, 2023

The racial disparities in maternal care–where Black women are three times more likely to die during childbirth than white ones–are nothing new. Class has often been considered a confounding factor in such disparities, especially in the U.S., where our largely privatized insurance system also creates a healthcare gap between rich and poor. But last month, a new study out of California tracking two million births from 2007 to 2016 suggests that money might not be as important as race when it comes to infant mortality. Black families are at greater risk for maternal and infant deaths in childbirth regardless of their socioeconomic status. Babies born to the richest Black women tended to have greater risk factors, such as low birth weight or being premature, than those born to the poorest white women. This suggests that structural racism begins even before childbirth for Black infants.

The medical establishment is well-known for minimizing the experiences of Black patients, including doctors and nurses failing to believe that they are in pain or blaming their health problems on racist assumptions like unhealthy eating or drug use. Even great wealth and privilege does not isolate Black women from experiencing medical racism during childbirth; Serena Williams–perhaps the greatest tennis player of all time, who is worth an estimated $260 million and married to a white millionaire–was initially ignored by her nurses when she insisted something was wrong after giving birth, despite her history of blood clots. It turned out to be a pulmonary embolism, a condition which accounts for 9.2% of maternal deaths in the U.S. each year.

How Genius Guild’s Portfolio Companies are Solving This

Genius Guild is proud to invest in companies that are working to combat the structural racism embedded in the medical field. That’s why we’ve invested in Health in Her HUE, a digital platform that aims to lessen the racial disparities found in health care by connecting Black women and women of color to culturally competent and sensitive care providers. This is especially important for infant mortality in light of a 2020 study that suggests that Black infants are much more likely to survive the birthing process if the doctors supervising their birth are Black. By creating a directory of providers who truly understand the consequences of medical racism, Health in Her HUE aims to advance equity in healthcare so that all women can get the treatment they need.

Health in Her HUE also created Care Squads–a trusted, intimate community for medical support. Care Squads are a program of virtual peer support groups that meet twice a month centered around a specific health topic. The curriculum for these groups is designed by experienced clinicians who are committed to improving the health outcomes of Black women and women of color. Genius Guild’s investment thus empowers communities of color to take control of their health and learn about the health and wellness issues that affect them the most.

Genius Guild is also an investor in Juno Medical, which is revolutionizing primary care and women’s wellness in predominantly Black communities. Juno’s business model centers the “Chief Caregiver” in the family–usually moms–by providing a one-stop office for pediatrics, women’s health, mental health, and primary care.

Juno’s focus is the gap in care for diverse families in low-income neighborhoods, areas that have historically been neglected and whose residents suffer from broad health disparities. They are able to work with families directly rather than going through employers that provide private insurance coverage. This also allows them to bill through Medicaid, whose users an NCHS March 2022 report suggests are much more likely be Black.

Improving Maternal-Child Health: The Investment Opportunity

Genius Guild believes that there’s significant opportunity and room for growth in innovations around the Social Determinants of Health (SDOHs), or “the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes … the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life” (The World Health Organization).

We welcome introductions to amazing startups in the space and to corporate innovation and investment arms of major healthcare companies, pharmaceuticals, and insurance companies for partnership and co-investment opportunities. Please feel free to connect them directly to Kathryn at kathryn.finney@geniusguild.co.

--

--

Kathryn Finney

Builder of Awesome Things | CEO & Founder Genius Guild. More info: http://geniusguild.co