Two North Carolina universities will team up for a study aimed at improving outcomes for people who are more likely to experience difficult pregnancies due to poor heart health. 

The American Heart Association has awarded a $2.3 million grant to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The schools will be tasked with conducting a four-year study to assess inequities in delivering optimum care to pregnant people with poor heart health.

According to a news release, high blood pressure during pregnancy and the postpartum period is the number one killer of Black people during pregnancy. Systemic racism is considered to be a factor in the development of high blood pressure.

Kimberly Harper, an associate professor at N.C. A&T, says she'll take the lead in drawing up the study's curriculum to analyze how structural racism impacts maternal health care. Harper says sharing revised best practices with medical professionals can have a positive impact on how they interact with communities of color.

"The education component is really groundbreaking, and I think that's one of the ways we can make a huge difference in the maternal health culture," says Harper. 

Teams from four hospitals in central North Carolina will also participate in developing and implementing the curriculum.

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