Black History, Today: Melissa Hanna & Mahmee Maternal and Infant Care

This year, we are spending Black History Month learning about Black leaders in healthcare technology – but leaders of our present day, not the past.

History is, of course, oppressively present in the lives of Black Americans. For example, we see the impact of racial bias and white supremacy in how difficult it is for Black founders of startup companies to get funding. Last year, Crunchbase News noted that only 1% of venture capital funding went to startups with one or more Black founders. The Holloway Guide to Raising Venture Capital noted that even less funding goes to companies led by Black women.

Here at ScriptDrop, we believe that in order for American healthcare to meet the needs of the people, the startup environment needs to reflect all the diversity of our country. That’s why we’re celebrating Black-founded and Black-led healthcare technology startups this month (and in the months to come). Join us!

Melissa Hanna, JD, MBA, is co-founder and CEO of Mahmee, a maternal and infant healthcare company, and she wants to change health outcomes for infants and birthing parents of color.

In the United States, maternal mortality is much higher than in other high income countries, but Black and Indigenous pregnant people are at highest risk. As reported by the Commonwealth Fund in December 2022, the average rate of maternal mortality in the United States is more than three times the rate of countries like France, Switzerland, the UK, Germany, Japan, and Australia, and has been steadily rising since 2000. But the rate of death for Black and Indigenous pregnant Americans is twice that of the US average.

There are many ways that American healthcare fails to serve Black and Indigenous pregnant people. For example, until recently, state Medicaid plans were allowed to end pregnancy-related coverage after 60 days postpartum, a medically risky time for many. In April 2022, states were given the option to extend pregnancy-related Medicaid for 12 months postpartum, but as of February 2023, only 29 states have chosen to do so.

In addition, disparities go far beyond insurance coverage. The Government Accountability Office found that even when controlling for social determinants of health, Black pregnant people remain at higher risk due to the insidious impact of racism. That’s why innovators like Melissa Hanna and her tech-driven solution are so important.

Hanna founded Mahmee in 2014 in collaboration with her mother, Linda Hanna, who is a registered nurse in obstetrics and a board-certified lactation consultant. The company officially launched in 2016, but has seen particular growth in the past few years. In a podcast interview with Molly Wood of This Week in Startups, Hanna said,

Maternal and child health, in particular, has been on the national stage for a long time as a topic of conversation from a health equity standpoint, but it’s now starting to become part of the healthcare economics conversation as well.

The pandemic was an important motivator for the healthcare industry. Suddenly, health systems and insurance payors were looking for telehealth options to keep patients on track with their appointments and medications. As the pandemic wore on, economic and racial disparities in healthcare became increasingly obvious. The social determinants of health became a bigger talking point than ever before, and healthcare stakeholders were eager to find cost-effective ways to close the gaps in care.

Since Mahmee seeks to provide comprehensive and accessible maternal-infant care through a tech-driven solution, the company was well-positioned to take off. In the past few years, Hanna and her team have grown Mahmee in several directions. Not only is there an individual membership option that gives pregnant people 24/7 access to a complete maternal care team, but Mahmee also has expanded their enterprise solution. By buying into this solution, health insurance payors and health systems can easily provide comprehensive and value-based maternal, post-partum, and infant care for diverse patient populations.

It seems that the industry is responding well to this opportunity. Last May, Mahmee closed their Series A round of funding at $9.2 million. That’s a very strong start, especially after a $3 million seed round led by Arlan Hamilton and supported by Mark Cuban and Serena Williams. Mahmee has also grown their senior leadership team. In January 2023, Mahmee welcomed Dr. Amanda P. Williams, a highly-experienced maternal health professional, as Medical Director.

We wish Melissa Hanna and her team continued success. We love seeing startups like Mahmee that take a patient-first view of healthcare, are highly aware of the social determinants of health, and are committed to health equity. Mahmee is already making a difference in the lives of pregnant people all over the country, and we hope that they will continue to flourish.