David Nemiroff, president of Long Island FQHC, is joined by...

David Nemiroff, president of Long Island FQHC, is joined by area health care leaders in Roosevelt on Thursday. Nemiroff said the nonprofit will partner with community groups and other health care providers in an effort to reach women, educate them about healthy lifestyles and provide better access to health care.

Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

A Nassau County nonprofit has received a $3.9 million state grant to help underserved women at high risk of maternal mortality in eight Nassau County communities, officials said Thursday.

The five-year grant awarded to the Long Island Federally Qualified Health Center will fund programming for women in Elmont, Freeport, Glen Cove, Hempstead, Long Beach, Roosevelt, Uniondale and Westbury — areas with significant populations of at-risk women. 

Statistics show African-American women are five times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, said David Nemiroff, president of Long Island FQHC, one of 26 organizations across the state to receive the Perinatal and Infant Community Health Collaborative grant from the state Health Department.

Nemiroff said Long Island FQHC, which has 10 facilities to help low-income, underinsured and uninsured residents, will partner with community groups such as the Women's Diversity Network and other health care providers in an effort to reach women, educate them about healthy lifestyles and provide better access to health care.

The assistance will continue for at least two years after the woman has given birth.

“We’re excited to finally be able to focus and make a dent in these health care disparities,” Nemiroff said at a news conference with community leaders outside the LI FQHC facility in Roosevelt.

Dr. Tarika James, chief medical officer at Long Island FQHC, said many of the conditions women deal with are treatable and preventable if detected early, such as hemorrhaging in the days after delivery.

“We have to educate providers and clinicians to look for those signs more early in the pregnancy and we have to educate patients about what to look for and what to observe about themselves in order to get the help they need in a more timely way,” James said.

In 2018, 51.2% of women who died of pregnancy-related causes in New York were Black, non-Hispanic, even though only 14.3% of births statewide were to Black women, according to state Health Department data.

Experts have said some of the reasons for this disparity include discrimination, health care providers not paying attention to the concerns of their patients, lack of follow-up care and inadequate patient education about potential complications.

As part of the new program in Nassau County, community health workers will be hired and conduct outreach to find women and assist them with a variety of services, such as access to healthy foods, educating them about the importance of avoiding tobacco, alcohol and drugs, and following up on medical appointments.

James said women also will learn how to advocate for themselves and speak up to doctors if they feel something is wrong.

Martine Hackett, director of public health programs at Hofstra University and co-founder of Birth Justice Warriors, which works to reduce maternal and infant mortality numbers, said some people are surprised to learn Nassau County, viewed as a wealthy suburb, has a serious problem with maternal and infant mortality.

But she pointed out the county is separated and segregated into areas with a lot of resources and residents in good health and others with few resources and residents in poor health.

“Where we live has a strong influence on our health,” Hackett said. “And this is especially true for the most vulnerable in any society — pregnant women and infants.”

The Suffolk County Health Department also received a Perinatal and Infant Community Health Collaboratives grant, to continue services in Babylon and Islip townships and expand into Brookhaven and Riverhead townships this summer.

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