Making Sense of September’s Maternal Mortality Review News

By Joy Burkhard, MBA
Founder and Executive Director, 2020 Mom

Woman lying in hospital bed

In September there was a lot of news surrounding maternal mortality. If you are like me, you couldn’t quite keep up and wondered “what did I miss?” The Mom Congress teamed up with our contacts at the CDC and combed through our in-boxes, to piece together the story. Here is the low-down and some other helpful resources:

ERASE MM Grants Released

The Centers for Disease Control awarded grants through the “Enhancing Reviews and Surveillance to Eliminate Maternal Mortality” (ERASE MM) program to the following states:

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah (collaborating with Wyoming), Washington, and Wisconsin.

These grants were separate from the funds provided through the “Preventing Maternal Deaths Act” in August through the CDC.

Spotlight on New Jersey

NJ’s First Lady, Tammy Murphy who joined us at Mom Congress in May is featured in this article about NJ receiving funding.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is collaborating with the state's largest health care system to address racial disparities in maternal and child health via the Advancing Health Equity: Leading Care, Payment, and Systems Transformation program.

California Releases Comprehensive Report on Maternal Mortality & Suicide

California's Pregnancy Associated (not Related) Maternal Mortality Review Committee, formed by the California Department of Public Health and facilitated by the California Maternal Care Quality Committee (CMQCC) issued its first ever report in September, which happened to be suicide awareness and prevention month. Two keep findings:

  • 83% of women died in the late postpartum period

  • Suicide preventability is high

Read the report here. I hope many other states will begin to adopt similar review processes, at the urging of the CDC.

Additionally, you may have also heard the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded $9 million to Missouri, New Mexico, and Texas to pilot, test, and develop new and innovative ways to improve access to obstetrics care in rural communities. Lack of Ob/Gyns and sometimes hospitals can make birth in rural communities look like birth in a non-developed nation.

The CDC Also Issued a New Report Comparing 14 States

Last month the CDC issued a new data brief titled Pregnancy-Related Deaths: Data from 14 U.S. Maternal Mortality Review Committees, 2008-2017.

Fourteen states voluntarily shared 2008-2017 data with CDC through the Maternal Mortality Review Information Application (MMRIA) -pronounced “Maria.”

The brief shares among other things:

  • Leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths varied by race/ethnicity

  • 2 out of 3 deaths were determined to be preventable

Two out of every three deaths are preventable. GUT WRENCHING.

Just as hard to hear:

Just 14 MMRCs are sharing data in the format recommended by the CDC

Until all 50 states are reporting we won’t be comparing apples to apples or have a true US maternal mortality rate. The federal government tracks the average price of apricots across the U.S., we should insist on consolidated tracking of maternal mortality and morbidity (near miss) metrics through MMRIA.

This is why our policy platform Mom Congress 2020 will continue to focus on preventing maternal deaths. Moms MUST raise their voices and fight in honor of those lost and prevent our younger sisters from never having had the chance to mother their baby.

Still want some basics?

In a webinar hosted by the National Institute for Health Care Management in September, Nina Martin from ProPublica (a friend of MommasVoices and 2020 Mom) and Elliot Main, MD, from the California Maternal Care Quality Collaborative (whose executive committee I have the privilege of sitting on) share what’s behind the disturbing maternal death rate in the U.S. Including lack of standardized reporting by the CDC.

Watch the webinar here.

In Closing

My go-to site for all things Maternal Mortality Review is Review to Action. Take a look. As of July, 48 states had reported having an MMRC (which may or may not be active, or using CDC review tools). The two states that have reported having an MRRC: North Dakota and South Dakota -and Puerto Rico doesn’t have one either.

It’s bedtime here and instead of feeling sleepy I’m feeling both grateful for progress made and fired up that more hasn’t been done. If you are too, join me at Mom Congress this May 3-5. We need your voice.