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New Nine-Month Study Seeks to Understand COVID-19 in Pregnancy among Minorities

Sutter Health
·4 min read

To Combat Inequities, Leading-Edge Research Will Lend Insights into How Virus Spreads in Diverse Groups of Expectant Mothers

Sacramento, Calif., Oct. 26, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Researchers with Northern California-based Sutter Health have launched a study to help shed light on the prevalence of COVID-19 in pregnant patients. By testing for antibodies, the team hopes to determine whether exposure to the SARS-CoV2 virus differs by race, ethnicity or other factors. Researchers with the not-for-profit healthcare system’s Advancing Health Equity program are leading the nine-month study, called the Maternal Covid-19 Antibody Race and Ethnicity (CARE) Study.

Among the first-of-its-kind in the U.S., the Maternal CARE Study is part of Sutter Health’s ongoing commitment to advancing health equity through research and patient-focused care. The Sutter team is actively recruiting pregnant patients for the Maternal CARE Study. The study will look at maternal health indicators including weeks of gestation, method of delivery (vaginal or C-section), length of stay and postpartum depression, among others, with the goal of increasing understanding of whether and how COVID-19 exposure during pregnancy differs by race and ethnicity.

“Sutter Health is a recognized national leader in healthcare quality, and we consider health equity to be a component of quality. We believe the Maternal CARE Study is a first step in understanding equitable care in pregnant patients,” says Sutter Health Chief Medical Officer Stephen Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D., one of the lead investigators for the study. “The COVID-19 pandemic has ripped a Band-Aid off the structural inequities that exist within our society—we must address these disparities right away, because the cost of not addressing them is measured in human life.”

Sutter Health is ideally suited to conduct the study both because of the large and diverse patient population it serves – with nearly 54% of patients self-identifying as non-white – and the significant number of babies born across its network each year – about 32,000, or the equivalent of three kindergarten classes every day. Researchers believe the connectivity and reach provided by Sutter’s integrated network may help broaden the pool of study participants and could potentially provide more inclusive and robust findings that can be shared and implemented across the U.S.

“The information we glean from the Maternal CARE Study could potentially give us significant insight into COVID-19 and how exposure impacts diverse groups during pregnancy,” says Alice Pressman, Ph.D., M.S., director of Sutter’s Center for Health Systems Research, and a lead investigator for the study. “The hope is through greater understanding of COVID-19 we can get ahead of the disease and save lives.”

Leadership in Advancing Health Equity & Addressing Maternal Health Disparities

The Maternal CARE Study is part of Sutter Health’s broadening and continued commitment to accelerating solutions that can eliminate health disparities in its system and beyond, including a successful track record of addressing maternal health disparities. Sutter worked with stakeholders, like the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC), on initiatives that dropped California’s maternal death rate by 55% over the past 10 years. Sutter was then able to employ best practices learned through the collaboration to bring its low-risk, first-birth C-section rate and maternal mortality rate well below California’s average and ensure Sutter’s maternal mortality rate demonstrates no inequity due to race or ethnicity.

Sutter’s dedicated Advancing Health Equity team continuously examines the network’s data to identify ways to provide better outcomes for all patients in areas including maternal health, managing chronic diseases like asthma, opioid prescribing behavior, cancer screening and COVID-19. The team developed a unique tool called the Health Equity Index (HEI) to identify and quantify disparities. It now offers the HEI to other health systems to allow everyone to generate comparable insights. In addition, the team recently published a study that helps provide a better understanding of COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color.

Sutter’s Maternal CARE Study – Additional Details

Sutter’s Maternal CARE Study began enrolling participants in July 2020 and will continue through March 2021.

The process is straightforward for pregnant Sutter patients who consent to join the study. When a pregnant woman comes to the hospital to give birth, a small extra blood sample is collected during the required routine blood tests at admission. The blood sample is then tested for antibodies which show whether a person has had COVID-19 in the past.

For more information visit: https://www.sutterhealth.org/research/maternal-care-study.

About Sutter Health

Sutter Health is more than 60,000 people strong thanks to its integrated network of clinicians, employees and volunteers. Headquartered in Sacramento, Calif., Sutter Health provides access to high quality, affordable care for more than 3 million Northern Californians through its network of hospitals, medical foundations, urgent and walk-in care centers, home health and hospice services. Nearly 14,000 physicians and advanced practice clinicians care for Sutter patients.

For more information about the Sutter Health network visit:

sutterhealth.org | facebook.com/sutterhealth | youtube.com/sutterhealth | twitter.com/sutterhealth

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CONTACT: Angeline Sheets, Director of Media Relations Sutter Health 1-916-494-9547 sheetsa@sutterhealth.org