Maternal Mortality

Maternal mortality: A national crisis


Identifying and addressing drivers of the crisis

Dr. Gee further emphasized the importance of addressing maternal health, noting that for every woman who dies from maternal causes, 100 experience maternal morbidity.

“It’s startling and it’s scary,” she said. “We are looking at this not just as a problem of outcomes, but a problem of racial inequity and racial bias and implicit bias.”

When she and her team assessed maternal mortality in Louisiana, they looked specifically at whether each death could have been prevented if, for example, blood was given sooner, cardiomyopathy was recognized sooner, or hypertension was treated on time.

“When we looked at these numbers ... when we looked at white women, 9% of the time we could have done better with our medical care; with black women, 59% of the time we could have saved her life with better care,” said Dr Gee, who is a gratis assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Louisiana State University, New Orleans. “And if that doesn’t convince you that racial bias is an incredibly important thing to address – that we need to have a conversation about and address at a national level – I don’t know what would.”

In fact, numerous health, societal, socioeconomic, and other factors – some known, some yet to be identified, and many inter-related – are among the drivers of the U.S. maternal mortality crisis. In the coming months, an Ob.Gyn. News team will examine several of these drivers in depth. We’ll look specifically at the role of racism and bias, and at urban-rural disparities in access and outcomes – especially for women of color and indigenous women. We’ll address the scope and impact of each, successes and failures in addressing the problems, and ongoing initiatives.

Follow us for insights from experts, researchers, practicing physicians, and patients and families affected by the maternal mortality crisis, and stay with us through coverage of ACOG 2020 for perspective on what, specifically, ob.gyns. can do about it.

Mr. Johnson proposed a starting point:

“Here’s the good news – you guys ready for this? We can fix this,” he said, adding that the solution starts with “speaking Timoria’s name ... speaking the name of Kira Dixon Johnson ... speaking the names of these women and then asking the people that are around you, ‘What are we prepared to do to make sure that this doesn’t happen to other women.’ ”


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