How $65 Million Will Help Address America's Maternal Health Crisis
Each year the maternal health crisis affects thousands of American women, from those who experience significant short- or long-term health consequences to those who lose their life. Women in the US are dying at a higher rate, 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, from pregnancy-related causes than women in any other developed nation.
For some women, the risk is much higher. Regardless of income or education level, Black women are three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications and women who live in rural areas are 60 percent more likely to die.
To combat this crisis, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently awarded more than $65 million to 35 Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funded health centers to address the maternal mortality crisis. Some of the few things the HHS will be spending its money on include:
- HRSA-supported Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health Patient Safety Bundles that are setting the standard for improving maternal care processes and patient outcomes in hospitals and other delivery settings across the country.
- HRSA’s Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies (RMOMS) Program that is building networks in rural communities to strengthen pre-natal, delivery and post-pregnancy support services.
- HRSA-funded State Maternal Health Innovation Programs that are directly supporting states to address the disparities in maternal health outcomes.
- HRSA’s Maternal Health Workforce Programs that are training new certified nurse midwives, training more community-based doulas, providing loan repayment incentives for nurses to practice in high-need communities, and building and deploying metrics identifying the areas with the greatest maternal health workforce needs.
- HRSA’s Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA that offers direct, confidential emotional and mental health support to pregnant women and new parents 24/7 in English and Spanish provided by trained counselors.
- HRSA’s Screening and Treatment for Maternal Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Program that is providing training for OB/GYNs, Certified Nurse Midwives and other maternal care providers to support the mental health needs of their patients and providing tele-consultation options to get real-time support from mental health experts in managing their cases.
These action items fit directly into the White House’s broader Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis which was released in June of last year.
The detailed plan outlined five priorities to improve maternal health outcomes in the US and 50 actions that over a dozen federal agencies will see through to help improve maternal care. In a statement accompanying the report’s release, the White House explainsed 11 ways the new Maternal Health Blueprint will help moms:
- Extended Postpartum Coverage: Under the plan, states are encouraged to extend Medicaid coverage from two months to one year postpartum so that women do not lose or have changes in their coverage during or soon after pregnancy.
- Stronger Workplace Protections for Mothers: Federal agencies will promote greater awareness of workplace protections and accommodations for new parents, like access to a private lactation room and break time to pump.
- Better Rural Maternal Care: Rural health care facilities will have more staff and capabilities to provide maternal care through increased funding from the expanding the Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies Program.
- More Mental Health Resources: Providers will be trained on mental health during pregnancy, and women will have access to the new, confidential, 24-hour, toll-free Maternal Mental Health Hotline.
- No More Surprise Bills: Through the No Surprises Act, women are now protected from certain unexpected medical bills, which may occur during pregnancy, postpartum care, and/or delivery.
- Better Trained Providers: More providers will be trained on implicit biases as well as culturally and linguistically appropriate care, so that more women are listened to, respected, and empowered as a decisionmaker in their own care.
- Improved Maternal Health Data: Through enhanced federal partnerships with state and local maternal health data collection entities, hospitals will have access to better data to analyze poor outcomes during pregnancy and make improvements to support healthy pregnancies.
- A More Diverse Maternal Care Workforce: Federal agencies will invest more in hiring, training and deploying more diverse physicians, midwives, doulas, and community health workers to support women during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum.
- Better Access to Doulas and Midwives: The Administration will work with states to expand access to doulas and midwives and encourage insurance companies to cover their services.
- Expanded Social Services: Stronger partnerships between federal agencies will help make enrolling in federal programs for housing, food, childcare, and income assistance easier.
- Readily Available Substance Use Services: Federal agencies will partner with community-based organizations to ensure that addiction services and people trained in substance use disorder during pregnancy are more available.
In 2021, Vice President Harris hosted the first-ever federal Maternal Health Day of Action, where she pledged the government’s commitment to work for safe pregnancies and childbirth. Since then, the Biden administration has launched the Maternal Mental Health Hotline—which has fielded over 12,000 calls—and has provided funding in seven states to support a Screening and Treatment for Maternal Depression Program.