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Avid Technology Announces First Quarter 2021 Results

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Avid Technology Announces First Quarter 2021 Results

 

78.2% Year-Over-Year Subscription Revenue Growth and Net Increase of Approximately 28,000 Paid Subscriptions During the Quarter

9.2% Year-Over-Year Revenue Growth as the Company Returned to Year-over-Year Growth

$12.3 million in Net Cash Provided by Operating Activities and Free Cash Flow of $11.1 million in the Quarter

Raises Full-Year 2021 Guidance for Subscription & Maintenance Revenue and Free Cash Flow

BURLINGTON, Mass., May 05, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Avid® (NASDAQ: AVID), a leading technology provider that powers the media and entertainment industry, today announced its financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2021.

Total revenue increased 9.2% year-over-year in the first quarter, as the Recurring Revenue components of the Company’s business remained strong. Subscription revenue was $24.9 million, an increase of 78.2% year-over-year, reflecting continued growth in paid subscriptions and strong enterprise subscription sales in the quarter.

Net Income was $4.4 million in the first quarter, an increase of $10.2 million year-over-year, and Adjusted EBITDA was $17.7 million in the first quarter, an increase of 324% year-over-year. Net income and Adjusted EBITDA benefited from the year-over-year increase in revenue combined with expanding gross margin and lower operating expenses. Net income also benefited from the year-over-year reduction in interest expense. The improvement in profitability also resulted in significant year-over-year improvement in net cash provided by operating activities to $12.3 million, and Free Cash Flow to $11.1 million in the first quarter.

First Quarter 2021 Financial and Business Highlights

  • Subscription revenue was $24.9 million, an increase of 78.2% year-over-year.
  • Paid Cloud-enabled software subscriptions increased by 49.2% year-over-year to approximately 324,000 at March 31, 2021 and increased by approximately 28,000 during the quarter.
  • Subscription and Maintenance revenue was $54.7 million, up 19.6% year-over-year.
  • Total revenue was $94.4 million, an increase of 9.2% year-over-year.
  • Gross margin was 65.1%, an increase of 360 basis points year-over-year. Non-GAAP Gross Margin was 65.6%, an increase of 390 basis points year-over-year.
  • Operating expenses were $50.9 million, a decrease of (5.1%) year-over-year.   Non-GAAP Operating Expenses were $46.3 million, a decrease of (9.8%) year-over-year.
  • Net income was $4.4 million, an increase of $10.2 million year-over-year.  Net income was 4.7% of revenue, up 1,150 basis points year-over year. Non-GAAP Net Income was $13.0 million, an increase of $16.4 million year-over-year. Non-GAAP Net Income was 13.8% of revenue, up 1,770 basis points year-over-year.
  • Net income per common share was $0.10, up from a net loss per common share of ($0.14) in the first quarter of 2020. Non-GAAP Net Income per Share was $0.28, up from a Non-GAAP Net Loss per Share of ($0.08) in the first quarter of 2020.
  • Adjusted EBITDA was $17.7 million, an increase of 323.6% year-over-year. Adjusted EBITDA Margin was 18.7%, a year-over-year increase of 1,390 basis points.
  • Net cash provided by operating activities was $12.3 million in the quarter, an increase of $17.9 million compared to Net cash used in operating activities of ($5.6) million in the prior year period.
  • Free Cash Flow was $11.1 million in the quarter, an increase of $18.2 million from ($7.1) million in the prior year period.
  • LTM Recurring Revenue % was 75.3% of the Company’s revenue for the 12 months ended March 31, 2021, up from 66.3% for the 12 months ended March 31, 2020.
  • Annual Contract Value was $302.0 million as of March 31, 2021, up 14.3% from $264.2 million as of March 31, 2020.

Jeff Rosica, Avid’s Chief Executive Officer and President, stated, “We are encouraged by the continued strength of, and growth in, our Recurring Revenue business during the first quarter.   We continued to have success with enterprise customers adopting subscription licensing, which, coupled with the strength we saw in subscriptions for creative individuals, returned us to year-over-year revenue growth in the first quarter.”   Mr. Rosica added, “We saw continued improvement in end market demand during the first quarter, and we expect that this recovery trend will continue during 2021. We are confident the new products and features we have recently introduced, combined with the operational improvements we have made during the past several quarters, should position us well for further growth and improved profitability as we move forward through 2021 and beyond.”

Ken Gayron, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Avid, said, “We are pleased that we continued to make substantial progress in driving our higher margin revenue streams and improving our profitability and Free Cash Flow during the first quarter.” Mr. Gayron continued, “We believe that our return to year-over-year revenue growth combined with our success in maintaining cost discipline as we emerge from the pandemic as well as the reduction in interest expense from our successful refinancing in January position us well for expected continued improvements in profitability and Free Cash Flow as we look forward to the remainder of 2021.”

Second Quarter and Full Year 2021 Guidance

For the second quarter of 2021, Avid is providing guidance for Revenue, Subscription & Maintenance Revenue, Non-GAAP Net Income per Share and Adjusted EBITDA. Avid is also raising its guidance for Subscription & Maintenance Revenue and Free Cash Flow for full-year 2021 that was issued on March 9, 2021, and is providing guidance for Revenue, Non-GAAP Net Income per Share and Adjusted EBITDA for full-year 2021.

($ in millions, except per share amounts) Second Quarter 2021
Revenue $88.5 – $94.5
Subscription & Maintenance Revenue $51.0 – $55.0
Non-GAAP Net Income per Share $0.19 – $0.27
Adjusted EBITDA $13.0 – $17.0
Full-Year 2021
Revenue $382.0 – $402.0
Subscription & Maintenance Revenue $217.0 – $225.0
Non-GAAP Net Income per Share $1.05 – $1.27
Adjusted EBITDA $69.0 – $79.0
Free Cash Flow $47.0 – $55.0

All guidance presented by the Company is inherently uncertain and subject to numerous risks and uncertainties. Avid’s actual future results of operations could differ materially from those shown in the table above. For a discussion of some of the key assumptions underlying the guidance, as well as the key risks and uncertainties associated with these forward-looking statements, please see “Forward-Looking Statements” below as well as the Avid Technology Q1 2021 Earnings Call presentation posted on Avid’s Investor Relations website at ir.avid.com.

Conference Call to Discuss First Quarter 2021 Results on May 5, 2021

Avid will host a conference call to discuss its financial results for the first quarter on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Participants may join the webcast in listen-only mode and access the presentation slides using the link on the Avid Investor Relations website, which can be found on the events tab at ir.avid.com. Participants who would like to ask a question can access the call by dialing +1 334-323-0501 and referencing confirmation code 9663369. Please connect at least 15 minutes in advance to ensure a timely connection to the call. A replay of the webcast will also be available for a limited time on the Avid Investor Relations website shortly after the completion of the call.

2021 Virtual Investor Day

Avid will host an Investor Day on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Eastern Time to provide a detailed review of its business and strategy. The online event is open to all investors. Please visit the Events and Presentations page on ir.avid.com for event details and registration. A replay of the webcast will also be available for a limited time on the Avid Investor Relations website shortly after the completion of the call.

Non-GAAP Financial Measures and Operational Metrics

Avid includes non-GAAP financial measures in this press release, including Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA Margin, Free Cash Flow, Non-GAAP Gross Margin, Non-GAAP Operating Expenses, Non-GAAP Net Income, and Non-GAAP Net Income (Loss) per Share. The Company also includes the operational metrics of Cloud-enabled software subscriptions, Recurring Revenue, LTM Recurring Revenue % and Annual Contract Value in this release. Avid believes the non-GAAP financial measures and operational metrics provided in this release provide helpful information to investors with respect to evaluating the Company’s performance. Unless noted, all financial and operating information is reported based on actual exchange rates. Definitions of the non-GAAP financial measures and the operational metrics are included in our Form 8-K filed today. Reconciliations of the non-GAAP financial measures presented in this press release to the Company’s comparable GAAP financial measures for the periods presented are set forth below and are included in the supplemental financial and operational data sheet available on our Investor Relations website at ir.avid.com, which also includes definitions of all operational metrics.

This press release also includes expectations for future Adjusted EBITDA, Non-GAAP Net Income per Share and Free Cash Flow, which are forward-looking non-GAAP financial measures. Reconciliations of these forward-looking non-GAAP measures are not included in this press release or elsewhere, due to the high variability and difficulty in making accurate forecasts and projections of some of the information excluded from the estimation of the non-GAAP results, together with some of the excluded information not being ascertainable or accessible at this time. As a result, we are unable to quantify certain amounts that would be required to be included in the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure without unreasonable efforts.

Forward-Looking Statements

Certain information provided in this press release includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Examples of forward-looking statements include statements regarding our future financial performance or position, results of operations, business strategy, plans and objectives of management for future operations, and other statements that are not historical fact. You can identify forward-looking statements by their use of forward-looking words such as “may”, “will”, “anticipate”, “expect”, “believe”, “estimate”, “intend”, “plan”, “should”, “seek”, or other comparable terms.

Readers of this press release should understand that these forward-looking statements are not guarantees of performance or results. Forward-looking statements provide our current expectations and beliefs concerning future events and are subject to risks, uncertainties, and factors relating to our business and operations, all of which are difficult to predict and could cause our actual results to differ materially from the expectations expressed in or implied by such forward-looking statements.

These risks, uncertainties, and factors include, but are not limited to: risks related to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on our business, suppliers, consumers, customers and employees; our liquidity; our ability to execute our strategic plan including our cost saving strategies, and to meet customer needs; our ability to retain and hire key personnel; our ability to produce innovative products in response to changing market demand, particularly in the media industry; our ability to successfully accomplish our product development plans; competitive factors; history of losses; fluctuations in our revenue based on, among other things, our performance and risks in particular geographies or markets; our higher indebtedness and ability to service it and meet the obligations thereunder; restrictions in our credit facilities; our move to a subscription model and related effect on our revenues and ability to predict future revenues; fluctuations in subscription and maintenance renewal rates; elongated sales cycles; fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates; seasonal factors; adverse changes in economic conditions; variances in our revenue backlog and the realization thereof; risks related to the availability and prices of raw materials, including any negative effects caused by inflation, weather conditions, or health pandemics; disruptions or inefficiencies in our supply chain and/or operations, including from the COVID-19 outbreak; the costs, disruption, and diversion of management’s attention due to the COVID-19 outbreak; the possibility of legal proceedings adverse to our Company; and other risks described in our reports filed from time to time with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Moreover, the business may be adversely affected by future legislative, regulatory or other changes, including tax law changes, as well as other economic, business and/or competitive factors. The risks included above are not exhaustive. We caution readers not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements includes in this press release which speak only as to the date of this press release. We undertake no responsibility to update or revise any forward-looking statements, except as required by law.

About Avid

Avid delivers the most open and efficient media platform, connecting content creation with collaboration, asset protection, distribution, and consumption. Avid’s preeminent customer community uses Avid’s comprehensive tools and workflow solutions to create, distribute and monetize the most watched, loved and listened to media in the world—from prestigious and award-winning feature films to popular television shows, news programs and televised sporting events, and celebrated music recordings and live concerts. With the most flexible deployment and pricing options, Avid’s industry-leading solutions include Media Composer®, Pro Tools®, Avid NEXIS®, MediaCentral®, iNEWS®, AirSpeed®, Sibelius®, Avid VENUE™, FastServe®™ and Maestro™. For more information about Avid solutions and services, visit www.avid.com, connect with Avid on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, or subscribe to Avid Blogs.

© 2021 Avid Technology, Inc. All rights reserved. Avid, the Avid logo, Avid NEXIS, FastServe, AirSpeed, iNews, Maestro, MediaCentral, Media Composer, Pro Tools, Avid VENUE, and Sibelius are trademarks or registered trademarks of Avid Technology, Inc. or its subsidiaries in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Product features, specifications, system requirements and availability are subject to change without notice.

Contacts

AVID TECHNOLOGY, INC.
Condensed Consolidated Statements of Operations
(unaudited – in thousands, except per share data)
Three Months Ended
March 31,
2021 2020
Net revenues:
Products $ 33,267 $ 34,711
Services 61,097 51,742
Total net revenues 94,364 86,453
Cost of revenues:
Products 19,493 20,962
Services 13,455 12,340
Total cost of revenues 32,948 33,302
Gross profit 61,416 53,151
Operating expenses:
Research and development 15,417 15,425
Marketing and selling 20,744 25,289
General and administrative 13,635 12,744
Restructuring costs, net 1,074 145
Total operating expenses 50,870 53,603
Operating income (loss) 10,546 (452 )
Interest and other expense, net (5,673 ) (5,283 )
Income (loss) before income taxes 4,873 (5,735 )
Provision for income taxes 482 122
Net income (loss) $ 4,391 $ (5,857 )
Net income (loss) per common share – basic $ 0.10 $ (0.14 )
Net income (loss) per common share – diluted $ 0.10 $ (0.14 )
Weighted-average common shares outstanding – basic 44,559 43,254
Weighted-average common shares outstanding – diluted 46,204 43,254
AVID TECHNOLOGY, INC.
Reconciliations of GAAP Financial Measures to Non-GAAP Financial Measures
(unaudited – in thousands)
Three Months Ended
March 31,
GAAP revenue 2021 2020
GAAP revenue $ 94,364 $ 86,453
Non-GAAP Gross Profit
GAAP gross profit 61,416 53,151
Stock-based compensation 440 200
Non-GAAP Gross Profit $ 61,856 $ 53,351
GAAP Gross Margin 65.1 % 61.5 %
Non-GAAP Gross Margin 65.6 % 61.7 %
Non-GAAP Operating Expenses
GAAP operating expenses 50,870 53,603
Less Amortization of intangible assets (105 ) (96 )
Less Stock-based compensation (2,977 ) (1,909 )
Less Restructuring costs, net (1,074 ) (145 )
Less Acquisition, integration and other costs (369 ) 183
Less Efficiency program costs (48 ) (131 )
Less COVID-19 related expenses (2 ) (186 )
Non-GAAP Operating Expenses $ 46,295 $ 51,319
Non-GAAP Operating Income and Adjusted EBITDA
GAAP net income (loss) 4,391 (5,857 )
Interest and other expense 5,673 5,283
Provision for income taxes 482 122
GAAP operating income (loss) 10,546 (452 )
Amortization of intangible assets 105 96
Stock-based compensation 3,417 2,109
Restructuring costs, net 1,074 145
Acquisition, integration and other costs 369 (183 )
Efficiency program costs 48 131
COVID-19 related expenses 2 186
Non-GAAP Operating Income $ 15,561 $ 2,032
Depreciation 2,119 2,142
Adjusted EBITDA $ 17,680 $ 4,174
GAAP net income margin 4.7 % (0.1 %)
Adjusted EBITDA Margin 18.7 % 4.8 %
Non-GAAP Net Income
GAAP net income (loss) 4,391 (5,857 )
Amortization of intangible assets 105 96
Stock-based compensation 3,417 2,109
Restructuring costs, net 1,074 145
Acquisition, integration and other costs 369 (183 )
Efficiency program costs 48 131
COVID-19 related expenses 2 186
Loss on extinguishment of debt 3,748 7
Tax impact of non-GAAP adjustments (149 ) (10 )
Non-GAAP Net Income (loss) $ 13,005 $ (3,376 )
Weighted-average common shares outstanding – basic 44,559 43,254
Weighted-average common shares outstanding – diluted 46,204 43,254
Non-GAAP Earnings Per Share – basic $ 0.29 $ (0.08 )
Non-GAAP Earnings Per Share – diluted $ 0.28 $ (0.08 )
Free Cash Flow
GAAP net cash provided by (used in) operating activities 12,313 (5,605 )
Capital expenditures (1,254 ) (1,479 )
Free Cash Flow $ 11,059 $ (7,084 )
Free Cash Flow conversion of Adjusted EBITDA 62.6 % (1.7 %)
These non-GAAP measures reflect how Avid manages its businesses internally. Avid’s non-GAAP measures may vary from how other
companies present non-GAAP measures. Non-GAAP financial measures are not based on a comprehensive set of accounting rules
or principles. This non-GAAP information supplements, and is not intended to represent a measure of performance in accordance with,
disclosures required by generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP. Non-GAAP financial measures should be considered in
addition to, not as a substitute for or superior to, financial measures determined in accordance with GAAP.
AVID TECHNOLOGY, INC.
Condensed Consolidated Balance Sheets
(unaudited – in thousands)
March 31, December 31,
2021 2020
ASSETS
Current assets:
Cash and cash equivalents $ 55,624 $ 79,899
Restricted cash 1,422 1,422
Accounts receivable, net of allowances of $1,522 and $1,478
at March 31, 2020 and December 31, 2020, respectively 58,831 78,614
Inventories 27,616 26,568
Prepaid expenses 7,308 6,044
Contract assets 21,955 18,579
Other current assets 2,274 2,366
Total current assets 175,030 213,492
Property and equipment, net 15,931 16,814
Goodwill 32,643 32,643
Right of use assets 27,538 29,430
Deferred tax assets, net 6,299 6,801
Other long-term assets 5,544 5,958
Total assets $ 262,985 $ 305,138
LIABILITIES AND STOCKHOLDERS’ DEFICIT
Current liabilities:
Accounts payable $ 19,220 $ 21,823
Accrued compensation and benefits 25,675 29,105
Accrued expenses and other current liabilities 35,088 42,264
Income taxes payable 1,405 1,664
Short-term debt 9,156 4,941
Deferred revenues 86,172 87,974
Total current liabilities 176,716 187,771
Long-term debt 175,125 202,759
Long-term deferred revenues 11,334 11,284
Long-term lease liabilities 26,913 28,462
Other long-term liabilities 7,471 7,786
Total liabilities 397,559 438,062
Stockholders’ deficit:
Common stock 448 442
Additional paid-in capital 1,032,068 1,036,658
Accumulated deficit (1,163,956 ) (1,168,347 )
Accumulated other comprehensive loss (3,134 ) (1,677 )
Total stockholders’ deficit (134,574 ) (132,924 )
Total liabilities and stockholders’ deficit $ 262,985 $ 305,138
AVID TECHNOLOGY, INC.
Condensed Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows
(unaudited – in thousands)
Three Months Ended
March 31,
2021 2020
Cash flows from operating activities:
Net income (loss) $ 4,391 $ (5,857 )
Adjustments to reconcile net income (loss) to net cash provided by (used in) operating activities:
Depreciation and amortization 2,119 2,142
Provision for doubtful accounts 83 497
Stock-based compensation expense 3,122 2,109
Non-cash provision for restructuring 912
Non-cash interest expense 129 2,820
Loss on extinguishment of debt 2,579
Unrealized foreign currency transaction (gains) loss (1,432 ) 51
Benefit from (provision for) deferred taxes 501 (207 )
Changes in operating assets and liabilities:
Accounts receivable 19,702 13,311
Inventories (1,048 ) (3,435 )
Prepaid expenses and other assets (866 ) (1,631 )
Accounts payable (2,604 ) (4,858 )
Accrued expenses, compensation and benefits and other liabilities (9,887 ) (5,323 )
Income taxes payable (259 ) 40
Deferred revenue and contract assets (5,129 ) (5,264 )
Net cash provided by (used in) operating activities 12,313 (5,605 )
Cash flows from investing activities:
Purchases of property and equipment (1,254 ) (1,479 )
Net cash used in investing activities (1,254 ) (1,479 )
Cash flows from financing activities:
Proceeds from revolving line of credit 22,000
Proceeds from long-term debt 180,000
Repayment of debt (203,554 ) (351 )
Common stock repurchases for tax withholdings for net settlement of equity awards (7,706 ) (1,818 )
Payment for loss on extinguishment of debt (1,169 )
Payments for credit facility issuance costs (2,574 )
Net cash (used in) provided by financing activities (35,003 ) 19,831
Effect of exchange rate changes on cash, cash equivalents, and restricted cash (332 ) (402 )
Net (decrease) increase in cash, cash equivalents, and restricted cash (24,276 ) 12,345
Cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash at beginning of the period 83,638 72,575
Cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash at end of the period $ 59,362 $ 84,920
Supplemental information:
Cash and cash equivalents $ 55,624 $ 81,182
Restricted cash 1,422 1,663
Restricted cash included in other long-term assets 2,316 2,075
Total cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash shown in the statement of cash flows $ 59,362 $ 84,920
AVID TECHNOLOGY, INC.
Supplemental Revenue Information
(unaudited – in millions)
Mar 31, Dec 31, Mar 31,
2021 2020 2020
Revenue Backlog*
Deferred Revenue $ 97.5 $ 99.3 $ 95.4
Other Backlog 319.3 336.2 339.6
Total Revenue Backlog $ 416.8 $ 435.5 $ 435.0
The expected timing of recognition of revenue backlog as of March 31, 2021 is as follows:
2021 2022 2023 Thereafter Total
Deferred Revenue $ 77.3 $ 14.8 $ 3.0 $ 2.4 $ 97.5
Other Backlog 103.2 109.5 68.4 38.2 $ 319.3
Total Revenue Backlog $ 180.5 $ 124.3 $ 71.4 $ 40.6 $ 416.8
*A definition of Revenue Backlog is included in our Form 10-K and the supplemental financial and operational data sheet available on our investor relations webpage at ir.avid.com.

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Column | Troubled ‘turbantor’ Harbhajan and his aggressive instincts

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The retirement of Harbhajan Singh from all forms of competitive cricket in December 2021 brought to close the career of a gifted cricketer who courted controversy at every turn of his career. During the first years of the 21st century, he was arguably the best spin bowler in the world and though his wicket-taking abilities hit a plateau after that, he sustained himself by the versatility that saw him play all formats of the game at the highest level with reasonable success. He was a regular in the national side and part of the team that won the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cup in 2007 and the ICC World Cup in 2011. Though he lost his place in the national squad in 2015, he continued playing in Indian Premier League (IPL) till he chose to hang up his playing boots last month.

Harbhajan Singh

Chennai Super Kings bowler Harbhajan Singh bowls during the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) match. Photo by Sajjad Hussain/AFP


Harbhajan kickstarted his career during the 1997-98 season when he found himself playing for the national side in March 1998 within four months after making his debut for Punjab in Ranji Trophy. His performances at the junior level and the absence of top quality off-spin bowlers were factors that prompted the selectors to try out this rookie bowler, then still in his teens. He did not set Kaveri on fire on his Test debut, which took place against Australia at Bangalore. Within one month, he made his bow in One Day Internationals (ODIs) as well but a string of below-par performances saw him lose his place in the side soon thereafter.

Harbhajan Singh

Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh appeals to the umpire at Buffalo Park in East London 19 October 2001. Photo: Tirsa Ellis/AFP


After going through a period of near oblivion when he was also thrown out of a training programme in National Cricket Academy on charges of indiscipline, Harbhajan staged a comeback to the national side in the winter of 2000-2001 with a performance that will be remembered by followers of the game in India for all times. Australia, led by Steve Waugh, had landed in India to conquer the “final frontier”. The visitors were on a high, having won the previous 15 matches on the trot and looked forward to creating a new world record with 17 consecutive triumphs in Tests, while also winning the series. And when they won the first Test at Mumbai by a margin of 10 wickets, everyone thought that they were on their way to attaining both their goals.

Harbhajan Singh

Indian players incluing Sourav Ganguly (R), Harbhajan Singh (3rd L), Shiv Sundar Singh (fourth from L, with helmet), VVS Laxman (2nd from R) run to celebrate India’s victory over Australia. Photo: Arko Datta/AFP


The Kolkata Test against Australia in February 2001 is known as “Laxman’s Test”, for his knock of 281 runs in the second innings which helped India to script a magnificent turnaround and win this game, after trailing in the first innings by 274 runs. Harbhajan also had a crucial role to play in this victory as he took 13 wickets (7 for 123 in first innings and 6 for 73 in the second), including a hat-trick on the first day. In the last Test at Chennai, Harbhajan again played a stellar role, bagging 15 wickets for 217 runs (7 for 133 in first and 8 for 84 in second innings) to finish the series with a tally of 32 wickets. Aussie batsmen did not have any answer for his wiles and even such accomplished performers as Rickey Ponting and Adam Gilchrist appeared shell-shocked while facing him. Australian media nicknamed him as “Turbanator”- a tribute to his destructive capacity with the ball.

Harbhajan Singh

Indian spinners Anil Kumble (L) and Harbhajan Singh at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground in New Delhi. Photo: Ravi Raveendran/AFP


Harbhajan’s career did not ever attain the stratospheric heights that this performance promised. The surfeit of limited overs’ cricket made him focus more on restricting runs than on “buying” wickets. This resulted in bowling a flatter line without “giving the ball air”; the classic loop which is the hallmark of a top-class off-spinner also disappeared. This made him a less destructive bowler except on helpful surfaces and the returns also started growing thinner. When Anil Kumble returned to the side after recovering from an injury, Harbhajan moved into the slot of support spin bowler.

Harbhajan Singh

Injured spinner Harbhajan Singh watches the action on the first day of the third Test Match being played at the MCG in Melbourne 26 December 2003. Photo: William West/AFP


A finger injury caused Harbhajan to return home during the tour to Australia in 2003-04. He returned to the side the next season and was amongst wickets with most of the games being played at home. However, the arrival of Greg Chappell as coach and the exit of Sourav Ganguly as captain of the national side in 2005 caused hiccups in Harbhajan’s career. He was the first Indian cricketer to publicly criticise Chappell and his methods and said that the coach was “instilling fear and insecurity” in the side. Though his explanation was called for, Harbhajan managed to escape action and issued a statement lauding Chappell soon thereafter!

Harbhajan Singh

Gerg Chappell (L), talks with Harbhajan Singh (R), during a net practice session at The Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium in Mohali. Photo: Raveendran/AFP


Harbhajan found himself in the midst of one of the biggest controversies in cricket when India toured Australia in 2007-08. In the second Test at Adelaide, Australia lodged a formal complaint that he indulged in racial abuse against Andrew Symonds. The relations between the two sides were at a low ebb and this incident even threatened to disrupt the conduct of the remaining part of the tour. Harbhajan vehemently denied the charges and the Indian team management supported him. But Mike Proctor, the match referee, found him guilty and slapped a punishment. India promptly appealed against this verdict and got a stay, which allowed the tour to go on. Eventually, the ICC appeals Commissioner Justice John Hansen overturned the verdict of the match referee and absolved Harbhajan.

Harbhajan Singh

(L to R) Australian players Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden are seen along side Indian player Harbhajan Singh and assistant Indian team manager M.V. Sridhar prior to the start of the appeal hearing against a three-match ban imposed on Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh by the ICC at the Adelaide Federal Court, 29 January 2008. Photo: Robert Cianflone/Pool/AFP


Controversy continued to dog Harbhajan even after the closure of this episode. During the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches in 2008, he slapped fellow India teammate S Sreesanth after the game between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians, which the latter side, led by Harbhajan, lost. The slapping of a national player in full view of television cameras drew widespread criticism and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) moved fast and initiated action against Harbhajan.

Harbhajan Singh

Indian cricketers Harbhajan Singh (L) and S Sreesanth. Photo: AFP


Incidentally, this was not the first time that Harbhajan had got physical with Sreesanth. During the Champions Cup trophy match in 2007, he had shoulder charged the fast bowler when he was walking to the top of his bowling mark. BCCI had chosen to ignore this incident despite it being witnessed across the country. But the “slapgate” was too serious to be brushed under the carpet and Harbhajan was barred from playing the remaining matches of that season of IPL, besides a five-match suspension from ODI’s.

Harbhajan’s international career took a severe reverse when he was injured during the tour to England in 2011. He was not selected for the tour to Australia in 2011-12 and his appearances in international matches became sporadic after that. He played his last Test in August 2015 and his final appearance in an ODI took place two months later, though he continued to play domestic first-class cricket till 2017. Since then, his appearances on the cricket field were limited to playing in IPL, where he picked up 150 wickets in 13 editions.

Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan Singh hold his Man of the Series trophy after India defeated Australia by two wickets in the the third test, hence winning the series in Madras 22 March 2001. Photo: Ravi Raveendran/AFP


A tally of 417 wickets in Tests and 269 scalps in ODI’s makes Harbhajan the second most successful off-spinner to play for India, after Ravichandran Ashwin. He could also wield the willow effectively as evident from a total of 2,224 runs in Tests with 2 centuries and 9 fifties. He was also the first spin bowler from India to adjust to the demands of all versions of cricket effectively. But his tendency to create controversies and lack of amenability to discipline cast a cloud over his career which could have reached much greater heights given the prodigious talent he was blessed with.

Sreesanth

S Sreesanth with teammate Harbhajan Singh. Photo: Alexander Joe/AFP


Followers of the game from Kerala could be forgiven for not harbouring a soft spot towards this highly competitive cricketer as he is considered to be the bugbear of Sreesanth and the source of all troubles that the Kochi born pacer found himself in. News reports indicate that the two cricketers subsequently spoke to each other and resolved their differences. But it would be difficult for the fans to forgive so easily as the bad taste created by those incidents does not vanish quickly. The same is the case with cricketers and cricket-loving public of Australia, as could be understood from the observations in the autobiography of Gilchrist, despite Harbhajan and Symonds sharing the same dugout in IPL.

In retrospect, one is forced to conclude that it would have been better for Indian cricket if the aggressive instincts of Harbhajan Singh were channelled properly on the cricket field and outside.

(The author is a former international umpire and a senior bureaucrat)

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Sports Betting’s Next Big Election Battles Are in California

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Sports Betting’s Next Big Election Battles Are in California

TEMECULA, Calif. — Legal sports betting in the United States accelerated in 2021 as a flurry of states either overcame legislative logjams, as Ohio did just before Christmas, or signed off on online wagering, as New York did just after Election Day.

But those efforts are likely to pale in comparison to the all-out lobbying, campaigning and legal jousting in 2022 involving what a DraftKings executive recently called “one of the holy grails” in sports betting: California.

By November, Californians may be asked to vote on as many as four sports betting initiatives. That’s why deep-pocketed interests, including national sports books and Native American casinos, have been gearing up to spend $200 million to persuade voters in California to support their particular proposal — or to reject the others.

One measure that has already qualified for the state ballot, sponsored by powerful tribes in California, would add sports wagering, but only in person, at tribal casinos or horse racing tracks. Online betting initiatives, now gathering signatures, dangle the prospect of making bets anywhere through the internet. Others offer a middle ground.

If one of the measures passes, nearly two-thirds of Americans will live in states that allow or regulate sports betting. And with California and New York on board, sports wagering would essentially be national in scope, fueling a market that Goldman Sachs recently estimated could grow to $40 billion in revenues in a decade from $900 million now.

Yet gambling expansion in California has often fallen short or been torpedoed by competing interests. Indeed, California’s card rooms, which primarily operate around larger cities and offer a more limited range of games, just filed a lawsuit to invalidate the qualified tribal measure.

“We’re never going to get sports betting figured out at any level unless California comes on board,” Jason Giles, executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association, said at a recent sports betting conference at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula. “That will be the game changer for the United States.”

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 to strike down a federal law banning commercial sports betting in states other than Nevada, more than 30 states have authorized sports wagering, including about a dozen in the last year. More than 20 states have gone live.

New York just started mobile sports betting after awarding licenses for it to two coalitions featuring marquee names, Caesars Sportsbook and Bally’s Interactive. Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio signed a bill legalizing sports betting in late December. And legislators in Wyoming and Arizona, among others, quickly approved sports betting.

“Look at this massive expansion across the country and where we are — it’s becoming very mainstream,” said Brandt Iden, a former state representative in Michigan who pushed to legalize sports betting in his home state. Iden is now head of government affairs for Sportradar, which collects and analyzes data for sports books. “I talk to legislators who say, you know what, I don’t support gambling, but everybody is doing it.”

Of the holdouts, Texas considered several bills in 2021, and some lawmakers expect momentum when the legislature reconvenes in 2023. Florida, meanwhile, is a mess: A federal judge recently blocked the Seminole Tribe’s new sports betting app, and DraftKings and FanDuel are racing to gather enough signatures to get a referendum on the 2022 ballot.

In California, gambling — mostly on slot machines and blackjack — has been legal for two decades on tribal lands under compacts negotiated with the state. The state also permits gambling at horse racing tracks, which was legalized in 1933, and card rooms, which trace their lineage to poker-playing miners during the Gold Rush.

Any changes would require constitutional amendments through a voter referendum, or legislation backed by the voters.

Previous attempts have bogged down; online poker, for instance, failed in part because the tribes themselves were split. But now there appears to be less resistance on moral and philosophical grounds.

“If we think about progressive legislation, or legislation to protect consumer welfare, California lies at the forefront, whether we want to talk about minimum wage or privacy protection,” said Marc Edelman, a law professor at Baruch College who has written extensively on sports gambling. “If California legalizes sports gambling it becomes very unlikely that another state would arise as the consumer-oriented opposer of sports gambling.”

This time, the push to expand gambling began before the pandemic, from a coalition of 18 tribes that have dominated casino gambling in the state.

Across the United States, tribal gambling generated $27.8 billion in revenue in its fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020, despite the pandemic. California is the biggest state, with 66 tribal casinos on federally recognized lands, mostly far from the coast, yielding about $8 billion, with much of that coming from slot machines.

Under the tribes’ initiative, which is backed by a political action committee that has raised more than $13 million, sports wagering would be permitted at tribal casinos and horse tracks. Roulette and games played with dice, such as craps, would also be allowed under the proposal, which qualified for the ballot in May 2021 after collecting more than one million valid signatures.

One thing that is not included is online betting, because the initiative is intended to be “a very measured, incremental step,” said Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians in Riverside County.

“We think this is the right thing to do for tribes and tribal sovereignty,” he said at the conference here. “There’s enough skittishness out there about what could happen to brick-and-mortar facilities.”

The initiative would also create a new civil enforcement tool allowing anyone suspicious of any illegal gambling operations to file lawsuits. It is this provision that has fueled two separate but related efforts by California’s card rooms to defeat the tribes, and to get their own sports betting measure passed.

California has more than 80 card rooms ranging from pub-like places with a few poker tables to sleek behemoths with 270 tables accompanied by restaurants and plentiful A.T.M.s. Collectively, they employ 23,000 people in urban areas, many of them Asian, Black and Hispanic, and pump in $300 million in federal, state and local tax revenues each year, according to the California Gaming Association, a trade group.

Many municipal budgets rely heavily on the card rooms to finance vital services and bolster juvenile justice and other programs, said Mayor Tasha Cerda of Gardena, which has two card rooms. She has backed an initiative that would permit sports betting at the card rooms, tribal casinos and racetracks, as well as allow for internet sports betting. That initiative has raised $450,000 to date. Meanwhile, some of the bigger card rooms have poured more than $24 million into a “No” campaign against the tribes’ initiative.

During a recent tour of Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, adjacent to SoFi Stadium, the host of the Super Bowl next month and the College Football Playoff national championship in 2023, Deven Kumar, the casino’s general manager, estimated sports betting could increase revenues — already hurt by the coronavirus pandemic — by 20 percent to 25 percent. He and James T. Butts Jr., Inglewood’s mayor, warned that the tribes’ civil enforcement provision could drain their existing business by up to 75 percent, compounded by the inevitable legal costs.

“They are attempting to make gambling a monopoly at the expense of others,” Butts said. “They are not the disenfranchised group they once were. The minority majority cities deserve the opportunity for equity as well.”

In the city of Hawaiian Gardens, where the Gardens Casino supplied 68 percent of the tax revenues in the 2019-20 municipal budget, Keith A. Sharp, the casino’s general counsel, said sports betting could transform Sundays at the casino — now mostly empty — into bustling periods where customers could wager on N.F.L. games while also playing baccarat or other games.

If the card rooms were hobbled, however, Nary Chin, a longtime card dealer and single mother of four, said she feared for her future.

“I learned English in the card room, not school,” said an emotional Chin, who immigrated from Cambodia in 1984. “I am very grateful. This is my home. If I didn’t have this job, I don’t know what I’d do.”

The third initiative comes from online sports books, including DraftKings and FanDuel, that want to enter California for the first time and offer online betting.

The measure requires those companies to partner with tribes, and its supporters say voters can pass both their initiative and the tribes’ in-person one. Most of the state’s profits would be dedicated to homelessness measures, and to the tribes themselves. It would also allow betting on nonathletic events, like award shows and video game contests, but not youth sports or elections, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“We view brick-and-mortar as very complementary to mobile,” Jonathan Edson, FanDuel’s senior vice president for business development, said at the sports betting conference.

“California is one of the holy grails in sports,” added Jeremy Elbaum, senior vice president for business development at DraftKings.

The supporters, buffeted by an initial $100 million from seven sports books, have lined up mayors in Long Beach, Oakland, Fresno and Sacramento, plus advocates working to combat a homeless crisis. They are confident they will collect enough signatures to be certified by the June ballot deadline.

“We are focused on ongoing stable revenue to fund the key programs that we know we need,” said Tommy Newman, vice president for engagement and activation at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “If we’re honest, this is regulating and capturing value from something that is happening, for people in communities that absolutely need the investment.”

In November, a fourth initiative arrived supporting both online and in-person betting, backed by a different group of tribes, including the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

“Out-of-state and international gaming operators want to rewrite the balanced system California has created so that the future belongs to them, paying a pittance to serious local and statewide social problems, and trying to divide the Tribes by offering temporary riches to a few while taking future growth opportunities away from the rest,” the tribes wrote in their application to the California attorney general.

A lawyer for the tribes, Scott Crowell, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Some gambling analysts believe that a plethora of initiatives may confuse voters, who may just say no to everything. Another wild card is a lawsuit filed in December by two card rooms claiming that the qualified tribal initiative violates the state constitution, which says initiatives can focus only on one subject, because the tribes are trying to add retail sports betting as well as add more table games.

Still, no matter the outcome of the lawsuit or the ballot measures, many sports and technology companies are building audiences through free-to-play games, contests, fantasy sports and national marketing campaigns, even in states where sports betting has not yet been cleared, said Rob Phythian, founder and chief executive of SharpLink Gaming, a technology company.

Teams like the Minnesota Vikings have hired companies like SharpLink to build fantasy games. That could be consequential in California, where there are 19 teams in the N.F.L., M.L.B., N.B.A., N.H.L. and W.N.B.A. — by far the most of any state.

“We’re just a bridge to betting,” Phythian said. “It’s sort of like training the muscle.”

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Addressing maternal health inequities | AAMC

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Addressing maternal health inequities | AAMC

Kysha Shaw lives with a lot of uncertainty. Among other things, the 42-year-old single mother of three worries about COVID-19, schools closing, and drug use and crime in her West Baltimore neighborhood.

“I love this community, but it can be really sad,” she says. “You see people begging for shoes and clothes. You might see someone slumped over with a needle in their arm. People sell drugs in front of the convenience stores.”

But Shaw is determined to keep herself and her children healthy, which she’s done thanks in part to an innovative effort called B’more for Healthy Babies Upton/Druid Heights (BHB U/DH). Founded in 2011, the program is part of a citywide initiative and is a partnership between the local community, the University of Maryland Medical Center, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

BHB-U/DH supports mothers and babies in West Baltimore, where 92% of residents are Black and 66% of children live below the federal poverty level. It provides prenatal education, support groups, smoking cessation, some rental assistance, and connection to a range of social services. Among other achievements, the effort has reduced infant mortality by 75%.

Experts believe that programs like BHB U/DH are essential if the United States hopes to address the inequities in maternal health found in so many crowded cities and remote rural towns.

The statistics are striking: Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women. Black women are twice as likely to experience serious perinatal complications. And early indicators suggest that COVID-19 is only exacerbating such inequities.

What’s more, advanced degrees and full bank accounts don’t close the gap. In fact, a college-educated Black woman faces a 60% greater risk of maternal death than a White woman with no high school diploma. Why is that? Experts point to the effects of subtle and explicit racism as well as weathering, the biological fallout of ongoing stress that can cause premature aging and related health problems.

Faced with this worrisome reality, researchers and providers are working to improve the health of vulnerable pregnant people before, during, and after childbirth.

“It’s incredible, some of the things I’ve heard our moms go through when they’re seeking care. It’s heartbreaking.”

Kamilah Dixon-Shambley, MD
Medical director of Moms2B

“Inequities are so pervasive and persistent that they require multisector efforts,” says AAMC Health Equity Research Analyst Funmi Makinde, MPH. “We need to address transportation, employment, and housing as well as physician shortages, and we need more diverse providers. We need high-quality data that are shared publicly to ensure accountability. The list goes on.”

Throughout all this work, it’s crucial to include the perspectives of patients who are often overlooked, experts say. In one recent survey, 20% of Black, biracial, and Latinx people felt their medical requests were refused or ignored, compared with 11% of White people.

“It’s incredible, some of the things I’ve heard our moms go through when they’re seeking care. It’s heartbreaking,” says Kamilah Dixon-Shambley, MD, medical director of Moms2B, an Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center program that provides yearlong supports and health education to low-income new and expectant mothers. “It’s crucial that patients and the community can trust their providers.”

Below, AAMCNews profiles multifaceted efforts to address maternal health inequities across the country.

Data that save lives

In 2006, California officials noted a worrisome trend: Maternal mortality was on the rise, even as the state recorded the most births nationwide.

Hoping to reverse the disturbing death rate, they turned to Stanford University School of Medicine to co-found the multistakeholder group that became the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC).

Serious number-crunching has fueled much of the CMQCC’s work. For one, it collects and analyzes hospitals’ raw data to quickly identify areas ripe for improvement, including racial and ethnic disparities.

“We send hospitals back reports, and they are flabbergasted when data are broken down by race and ethnicity. They may see that their Black patients have 6 percentage points higher C-section rates than Whites,” says CMQCC Medical Director Elliott Main, MD. “That really spurs them on to look at addressing racism in labor and delivery.”

CMQCC experts also use data to identify the need for and then create step-by-step provider toolkits on key causes of birth-related complications. One on postpartum hemorrhage, which covers such crucial moves as measuring and effectively treating blood loss, reduced disparities between Black and White patients by nearly 80%.

“The standardized protocols in toolkits take away a lot of provider subjectivity,” Main says. “Subjectivity is the entrée for biases that impact patient care.”

And hospitals in the collaborative — there are more than 200 of them — can receive training on implementing the toolkits. “A toolkit that sits on the shelf does nothing,” he adds.

“We send hospitals back reports, and they are flabbergasted when data are broken down by race and ethnicity. … That really spurs them on to look at addressing racism in labor and delivery.”

Elliott Main, MD
Medical director of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative

All of these efforts have borne fruit: Since the launch of the collaborative, California’s maternal deaths have dropped by 65%.

Now, the CMQCC is crafting additional equity-related recommendations, such as handing expectant patients a staff-signed commitment promising to treat every patient with dignity and engage them in all birth-related decisions.

Also high on the CMQCC agenda is assessing the approaches of maternal mortality review committees, the bodies that study every pregnancy-related death.

“Often a problem is that review materials are medical-centric, and obviously the patient can’t tell her own story,” says Main. “We’re now exploring interviewing family members who lost a relative for their perspective. I think that’s going to be the future of committee reviews.”

Hands-on help

Pregnancy always brings some stress, but the tension is much higher for patients who struggle to understand English and the intricacies of the U.S. health care system.

That’s why Crista Johnson-Agbakwu, MD, founded Valleywise Health’s Refugee Women’s Health Clinic in Arizona in 2008.

Since then, the Phoenix-based center has served more than 16,000 patients, many from countries across Africa. Arizona, which ranks high on the list of states resettling refugees, is now integrating evacuees from Afghanistan, says Johnson-Agbakwu.

“These are people who have escaped war and gender-based violence and other human rights atrocities,” she notes. “It’s important to understand the communities’ needs and meet the priorities they identify.”

To help do that, the clinic hires cultural health navigators (CHNs) — lay health care workers steeped in the culture and language of those they serve. “CHNs deeply understand patients’ background, religion, and lived experience and can interpret their health care through those lenses.”

CHNs offer patients ongoing supports, from accompanying them to prenatal visits to facilitating a smooth hospital discharge. And they can chart all interactions in electronic health records so that physicians know what’s been done or discussed.

“These are people who have escaped war and gender-based violence and other human rights atrocities. It’s important to understand the communities’ needs.”

Crista Johnson-Agbakwu, MD
Founder of Valleywise Health’s Refugee Women’s Health Clinic

Like Baltimore’s BHB, Ohio’s Moms2B, and similar programs, the clinic’s supports are accompanied by classes on perinatal health. But its offerings include a tour of the hospital labor and delivery unit — a crucial support for participants unaccustomed to Western, medicalized births.

“Things like IV lines and beeping noises and blood pressure cuffs can be very scary for this population,” says Johnson-Agbakwu. “They’re used to being mobile in labor and can interpret what we do as tying them to the bed. The tour helps demystify a lot of this.”

In all its work, the clinic strives to honor patients’ perspectives. “We try to go beyond checking the boxes of ensuring medical care,” she says. “We are engaging in care that’s anchored in mutual respect. That’s a piece that can be missing in achieving maternal health equity.”

Reaching rural patients

Many of the patients treated by Vidant Health in eastern North Carolina face significant pregnancy-related risks. More than half are overweight or obese, and many have diabetes or hypertension. The poverty rate of this population is twice the national average, and nearly all live in remote rural areas.

Black people — who comprise roughly a third of Vidant’s birthing patients — often fare the worst. In one recent nine-year period, they represented nearly 70% of maternal deaths in the region.

And Vidant Medical Center, based in Greenville, is the only large hospital in an expanse covering 29 counties.

Since 2017, Vidant has been working to support providers throughout the region in efforts to ensure high-quality care during obstetrical emergencies.

One major focus is drills in birth-related crises. These simulations — hundreds have been held in 18 hospitals over the past three years — cover emergency cesarean sections, maternal resuscitation, and more.

The scenarios unfold realistically: A Vidant staff member assumes the role of a patient, and the local team races to save her — calling for emergency assistance, rushing to get instruments, and suggesting necessary maneuvers.

“In a small hospital, these emergencies happen maybe once every two or three years,” which makes it tough to keep skills fresh, says James deVente, MD, PhD, medical director of obstetrics at Vidant Medical Center. “We give them a chance to practice skills over and over so that when something actually happens, they’re ready.”

Traveling to provide training is not always the best option, though. So Vidant providers have also logged thousands of hours advising local providers on how to handle their toughest perinatal cases.

Now, in an effort launched in July 2020, Vidant experts also remotely treat high-risk patients, working in collaboration with 15 local obstetricians.

“Patients often need to drive 60 miles or more each way to be seen [at Vidant],” says Alan Sacks, MD, who heads the Maternal Outreach Through Telehealth for Rural Sites (MOTHeRS) Project. “Appointments can be a costly ordeal in wages lost for a day off from work, child care, and transportation. The project is patient-centered. We basically go to them.”

In addition to telehealth services like remote ultrasound, the effort screens all participants for food insecurity. Those in need immediately receive a food package and are connected to a local food bank. All patients with diabetes or obesity also receive ongoing nutrition counseling.

Sacks highlights another key component of the program: mental health care.

“Mental health disorders carry a 50% increase in severe maternal morbidity and mortality. Nearly 9% of maternal deaths are attributable to mental health disorders. All of these figures are higher in African American patients. The situation and statistics are tragic and can fuel a worrisome intergenerational cycle.”

Looking ahead, Sacks hopes to expand the MOTHeRS Project to additional remote locations. Meanwhile, Vidant’s efforts so far have made a difference. For example, the infant mortality rate in the region dropped by 24% in recent years.

“There’s more work to be done,” says deVente. “But we set out to make this region a better place to give birth and be born, and I think we’ve succeeded in doing that.”

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