SUNY Downstate Receives $2.7M in Federal Funding to Enhance Maternal and Child Healthcare in Central Brooklyn

By Office of Communications & Marketing | Apr 18, 2024

Funding Secured by Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand Will be Used to Develop a New Women’s Health, Pediatric and Birthing Center at UHD

BROOKLYN, NY – SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University (Downstate) announced that New York State Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have secured $2.7 million in federal funding to support Downstate’s Central Brooklyn Comprehensive Maternal and Child Health Network. The Congressionally Directed Spending will be used to develop a new Women’s Health, Pediatric and Birthing Center close to University Hospital at Downstate (UHD) – the center is a 10,000 square foot clinic in Crown Heights intended to provide comprehensive primary and specialty healthcare to vulnerable and low-income populations in Kings County.

“We are extremely grateful to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for championing maternal and child healthcare and helping to secure funding that will enable us to reduce adverse health outcomes in Central Brooklyn,” said SUNY Downstate president, Wayne J. Riley M.D., MPH, MBA, MACP, “The Birthing Center will provide critical primary and specialty care for two of the most vulnerable populations in an area with the highest rates of maternal mortality, infant mortality, and lack of prenatal care.”

Central Brooklyn is the epicenter of the maternal health crisis in New York City. Women with the highest rates of severe maternal morbidity (SMM), considered “near misses” to maternal death, are Black immigrants concentrated in Central Brooklyn. This situation reflects a history of systemic racism and neglect. In addition, women who lack adequate care throughout pregnancy and postpartum have a higher risk of severe maternal adverse events and death.

According to the NYC Health Department, there is a significant and pronounced Black-white maternal mortality gap in New York City. On average, the maternal mortality rate is 9.4 times higher for Black birthing persons compared to White counterparts.

“To have the patients we serve recognized by our elected leaders is instrumental in helping us to address the needs of all children and people seeking obstetric and gynecological care. This funding will provide invaluable resources for years to come, and we look forward to continuing to work toward our shared goal of a healthier Brooklyn community,” said Downstate Obstetrics & Gynecology Department chair, Camille A. Clare, M.D., MPH, CPE, FACOG.

The new state-of-the-art health center will have the capacity to provide care to 400 pregnant people and 15,000 outpatient visitors annually as the only birthing center in Brooklyn, aiming to decrease disparate maternal and infant mortality rates. Beyond providing a safe, non-hospital setting for labor, the building will house lab testing facilities, counseling services, cancer screenings, and routine primary care providers. UHD intends to use this opportunity additionally to employ local community health workers to strengthen outreach and engagement in the neighborhood.

UHD has a history of investing in equitable maternal care through its “Community Engaged Hypertensive Disorders In Pregnancy” multidisciplinary workgroup, and has previously received funding from America's Essential Hospitals to address Black maternal mortality and morbidity.


About SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn is one of four academic health centers (AMCs) in The State University of New York (SUNY) 64-campus system and the only SUNY AMC in New York City dedicated to health education, research, and patient care for the borough’s 2.7 million residents. Its flagship hospital, University Hospital at Downstate (UHD), is a teaching hospital and benefits from the expertise of Downstate’s exceptional medical school and world-class academic center research facilities. With a staff of over 800 physicians representing 53 specialties and subspecialties, Downstate offers comprehensive healthcare services to the community.

UHD provides high-risk neonatal and infant services, pediatric nephrology, and dialysis for kidney diseases and is the only kidney transplantation program in Brooklyn. Beyond its clinical expertise, Downstate houses a range of esteemed educational institutions, including its College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health Professions, School of Graduate Studies, and School of Public Health. Downstate fosters innovation through its multifaceted biotechnology initiative, the Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT, which support early-stage and more mature biotech companies.