The United States stands alone in the developed world for its high rate of maternal deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 700 women die each year during childbirth. According to NBC News, the number of maternal deaths is even more disturbing because they seem to be isolated to racial minorities, particularly black women. In New York, which has been fruitlessly trying to reduce its maternal mortality rate, the number of deaths is still increasing and the race gap is growing larger each year. Last year, a black woman was 12 percent more likely to die during child birth in New York.
“It’s extremely alarming,” Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, an NYU professor and author of a recent study on the subject, told NBC News. “We actually learned that most of the women who died had received no prenatal care. These women who are under-served in the city are not seeing their physicians.”
The study analyzed New York’s maternal death rate over the last two decades and focused on the effect of several initiatives – some at the hospital level and some at a government level – to reduce the rate. “What we found was that hospitals are doing some programs to reduce maternal mortality, and there are programs being done in the community as well, but they’re not linked up.” According to Dr. Shirazian, this lack of coordination means minority mothers and low-income mothers are unable to reap the “maximum benefits” of the program.
Politicians appear to finally be waking up to the problem – as the maternal death rate has increased from 10.3 per 100,000 births in 1990 to 23.8 in 2014, an increase that no other developed country in the world saw during the same time period. Democratic hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang mentioned the topic during one of the many Democratic debates. Former Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, released a policy paper specifically aimed at reducing the maternal death rate. On the other side of the aisle, Republican politicians in state legislatures, such as Alabama and Virginia, are helping pass laws to deal with the problem.
After decades of inaction by the federal government, both parties in Congress appear ready to tackle the problem – with a proposed $50 million budget. Hopefully these programs learn from New York’s failed attempts to combat a growing problem and provider better coordination between health care facilities and their local communities.
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