A pregnant person having a conversation

Sharing Lifesaving Messages to Help Prevent Pregnancy-Related Deaths

In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched Hear Her, a national communications campaign that supports CDC’s efforts to prevent pregnancy-related deaths by sharing potentially lifesaving messages about urgent warning signs. The initiative amplifies the stories of women who have experienced pregnancy-related complications and encourages partners, friends, family and healthcare providers to listen when those concerns are raised and offer help.

Supported through a partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health, as well as the CDC Foundation and funding from Merck through its Merck for Mothers program, the latest phase of the program reaches out to American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) women, who are twice as likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women.

AIAN people often experience discrimination or racism and face barriers to care including higher rates of poverty and long distance to quality health care services. The Hear Her team recognized the importance of creating culturally appropriate resources for these audiences to reflect the strength and diversity of AIAN communities. Hear Her campaign resources for AIAN communities were developed based on guidance and feedback from AIAN communities. CDC worked with the National Indian Health Board to host discussion sessions open to all AIAN individuals and consulted other American Indian colleagues and advisors before developing messaging and producing resources.

A pregnant person walking while holding the arm of another person

The Hear Her team also held focus groups with AIAN women and the people who supported them during pregnancy and the postpartum period to learn about their experiences and get feedback on draft Hear Her campaign resources. Feedback from focus groups and ongoing input from partners helped ensure the communities’ perspectives were reflected in the design, production and dissemination of new culturally resonant communications, which now appear on a dedicated series of webpages at CDC.gov. Resources include:

  • Video testimonials from five American Indian women who experienced pregnancy-related complications. One of the participants noted, “This video speaks volumes. I am so satisfied and grateful that my story will be shared.”
  • Conversation guides, palm cards and posters that help AIAN pregnant and postpartum people and their circles of care recognize urgent warning signs and encourage them to seek the care they need.
  • Materials to support healthcare professionals who serve AIAN communities in their delivery of respectful, culturally appropriate care.

The campaign team is utilizing digital and social media, including AIAN serving channels, to further the reach of these new resources. These efforts have resulted in more than 16.5 million impressions of the new resources for AIAN communities from digital and social media and over 100,000 views of the new webpages with Hear Her resources for AIAN communities.

“It is quite touching, and indeed I am a little tearful, that I have been able to witness a nationwide campaign targeting American Indian and Alaska Native women through the Hear Her campaign,” said Janelle Palacious, PhD, CNM (Salish & Kootenai), an American Indian nurse midwife. “As you know, very little data exists on our population for a number of reasons, but essentially, the overwhelming message is that our voices and experiences are not important. The Hear Her campaign was an action that contradicts those messages. Our voices are important.”

A pregnant person speaking to medical professional in a medical setting with watermark that says Hear Her ConcernsA person holding a baby with watermark that says Hear Her Concerns