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Using digital technology to advance maternal health

The US statistics on maternal health are startling, especially when measured against other developed countries. For example:

  • Pregnancy-related deaths are three times more likely in the US than in 10 similar countries.

  • Each year, at least 60,000 US mothers experience complications from pregnancy and delivery—also known as severe maternal morbidity—that can seriously affect their health. [1]

  • When compared to their white counterparts, rates of severe maternal morbidity are 3.2 times higher among Black mothers, and 2.3 times higher among American Indian and Alaska Native mothers, according to this recent CDC report.

To help improve the health of mothers and babies, Microsoft US Health and Life Sciences (HLS) is taking action through PowerMom, a consortium of health and technology companies, advocacy groups, and community health centers led by the Scripps Research Digital Trials Center. Together, these organizations are working to advance research into maternal health.

Healthier pregnancies and babies

Last summer, our HLS team began researching how we could contribute to the nationwide goal of healthier pregnancies and babies regardless of race, ethnicity, income, or education. We concluded that Microsoft could serve as a convener of customers, partners, industry leaders, and data science experts to accelerate progress on maternal health. Conversations with Dr. Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, quickly convinced us to join forces with PowerMom, allowing us to:

  • Live our empowerment mission by helping PowerMom reach its goal of building the largest, most diverse pregnancy-related research community to inform and support pregnant people around the globe.

  • Support our five-year Racial Equity Initiative, first outlined in June 2020.

  • Demonstrate our corporate value of diversity and inclusion.

  • Assist Scripps in transforming how and where clinical research is done.

  • Use our insights, technology, and partnerships to tackle a critical US healthcare problem.

Announced December 7 with this press release and video, the PowerMom consortium is taking advantage of digital and mobile technologies to recruit, monitor, and communicate with pregnant study participants, who share data about their experience through a mobile app. We’re focused on enlisting 10,000 pregnant people to join the PowerMom digital clinical trial, building on the successful pilot, which allowed more than 3,500 participants to confidentially share their health data with scientists. We believe PowerMom provides a crucial opportunity to enhance maternal and fetal health outcomes, overcome disparities, and improve pregnancy and childbirth statistics across the nation.

Journey to advance maternal health

We’ve always been passionate about using technology to solve human challenges and can’t wait to see how PowerMom uses digital capabilities to reverse our country’s number 1 ranking in maternal mortality among developed countries. The first-ever White House Maternal Health Day of Action last December 7 underscored the importance of this issue, but we also recognize that those of us in healthcare and technology fields must step up, innovate, and effect change.

The potential for PowerMom to gather data and insights on ways to decrease risks for pregnant people worldwide is of equal consequence. Dr. Toluwalasé Ajayi, Scripps Research clinical researcher and principal PowerMom investigator, said in the consortium’s announcement: “Historically, pregnant people have been excluded from most clinical research, resulting in significant knowledge gaps when it comes to understanding pregnancy on an individual level. Staggering racial inequities make it all the more urgent for scientists to help tackle this national public health crisis.”

In line with Dr. Toluwalasé Ajayi´s statement, we look forward to applying our expertise, relationships, platforms, and tools to the PowerMom digital clinical trial. By collaborating, we can help advance maternal health, conquer health disparities, and promote healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.

Our commitment

Please learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to address racial injustice and inequity by reviewing our Racial Equity Initiative 2021 Progress Report. You can explore other ways we advocate for health equity for Black mothers at these resources:

[1] Statistics reported by STAT.