Grant to Neighborhood Health Center Supports the Health of New Mothers and Babies

A health equity award from Univera Healthcare will fund a new program being implemented by Neighborhood Health Center to improve health outcomes for pregnant patients and their newborn babies. Neighborhood Health Center serves communities that experience disproportionate percentages of high-risk pregnancy outcomes, such as low birth weight, premature birth, and late or no entry to prenatal care. The grant will help fund a maternal-infant health community health worker and Care Coordination Training Program at Neighborhood. The program will offer Neighborhood community health workers and care coordinators specialized training in obstetrics and gynecology to assist patients with internal referrals to nutrition, behavioral health, pediatrics, and other services, as well as referrals to outside medical specialists and community resources for social support.

“In the Buffalo zip codes where our Neighborhood offices are located, nearly 14% of births are premature compared to less than 12% on the county level,” explains Neighborhood President and CEO Joanne Haefner, FNP. “These same zip codes also have higher instances of low birth weight and pregnant patients entering prenatal care late or not at all. We thank Univera for believing in our efforts to improve these health outcomes and care for our patients so they can lead healthier lives.”

Regional health data shows that persons of color are at an elevated risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes. The Erie County average for low birth weights is about 10% higher than the state average (8.1% NYS average, 8.8% Erie County average), but it is almost 73% higher among African Americans (14%) and 56% higher among Hispanics (12.7%) than the state average. At Neighborhood, in the past year, African American patients made up 22% of all Neighborhood pregnancies but represented 24% of all high-risk pregnancies.

“We have an opportunity and a responsibility to confront the nation’s crisis in maternal health disparities,” says Univera Healthcare President Art Wingerter. “With this grant, Neighborhood Health Center will have greater capabilities to support safe pregnancies and childbirth, eliminate pregnancy-related health disparities, and improve health outcomes for new mothers and babies.”

Neighborhood has had success in reaching pregnant people who have barriers to starting pregnancy care and end up entering late into pregnancy care: In 2022, 13% of Neighborhood’s obstetrical patients entered care in the second trimester, and 2% in their third trimester of pregnancy. Neighborhood also serves a large number of pregnant teenagers; nearly 10% of Neighborhood patients who gave birth in 2022 were teenage patients, while the teenage birth rate on the county level was below 2%. Reaching these patients early in their pregnancies increases Neighborhood’s ability to improve their birth outcomes and connect them with resources they need after delivery.

Neighborhood has served as the region’s leading primary care safety-net provider for 35 years and provides access to high-quality comprehensive health care services to Western New Yorkers, regardless of ability to pay. Learn more about Neighborhood Health Center at

Univera Healthcare is a nonprofit health plan that serves members across the eight counties of Western New York. Learn more about Univera Healthcare at