CDC: US could prevent top-thirds of maternal deaths

black maternal health x
Credit: Joanie Tobin/ProPublica

[A] report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [says] the United States could prevent two-thirds of maternal deaths during or within a year of pregnancy. Policies and practices to do so are well understood; we just haven’t employed them.

Black women make up about 13 percent of the female population but account for nearly 40 percent of maternal deaths… The racial differences seen in both maternal and infant mortality are driven by the same forces. Relative to white people, Black Americans have less access to the health system and receive poorer care, with worse outcomes.

In a study this year in Health Affairs, [researcher Sarah Gordon] and colleagues documented a connection between postpartum Medicaid coverage and care. The study found that in Colorado, which expanded Medicaid in 2014, mothers retained Medicaid coverage for longer and used more postpartum outpatient care compared with mothers in Utah, which did not expand Medicaid until after the study was conducted. Other work shows that expanded Medicaid is associated with a drop in infant mortality rates, echoing findings from earlier Medicaid expansions for pregnant women.

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Though the statistics may not be perfect, America’s maternal mortality rate is higher than it need be and disproportionately so for Black Americans and those in rural areas. The evidence suggests that targeted public health investments and policy changes like expanding Medicaid coverage could help.

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