Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In light of these statistics, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday morning an action plan to improve maternal health.

The road map outlines three targets to achieve in the next five years: 

  • To reduce the maternal mortality rate by 50%
  • To reduce the low-risk C-section delivery rate by 25%
  • To control blood pressure in 80% of reproductive aged-women.

In order to achieve the above, the department announced various objectives for a “life course approach” toward improving women’s health pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and postpartum. “We really need to create health along the life course. You’re not going to magically make someone healthy when they find out they have a positive pregnancy test,” said Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams,who released an accompanying call to action. “We want to make sure people are healthy before they become pregnant, while they’re pregnant and after they deliver.”

HHS cites a four-tiered approach to achieving its goal of reducing maternal morbidity and mortality, one of which is to improve data and bolster research on the issue. The department plans to allocate $3 million toward projects related to maternal health data collection and better connect the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System and state hospital discharge data.

The plan also aims to “advance a nationwide paid family leave plan” so mothers can focus on their health and children, and a public-private partnership with the March of Dimes to implement evidence-based maternal health strategies in hospitals that serve mostly Black patients and provide obstetric care for Black moms. An HHS spokeswoman says the department hopes to improve care in at least 100 hospitals.

March of Dimes CEO Stacey Stewart said the program will implement strategies using patient safety tool kits developed by a national data-based initiative on maternal health improvement, the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health. “These are bundles of maternal safety supports that have been proven to work,” Stewart said. “The issue is, are they being implemented in hospitals that are primarily serving Black mothers, and can we enhance the ability for those hospitals to implement those practices?” Stewart said that along the way, she hopes the program also will help detect issues and barriers that individual hospitals have providing quality care to Black moms. “One of the things and the areas that we know it’s really impacted Black maternal health is the issue of implicit bias,” Stewart said, adding that the March of Dimes has recently rolled out an implicit bias training program for health care providers.

Source: USA Today

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