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President Trump has signed legislation to prevent U.S. maternal mortality—which has more than doubled since 1987—by funding surveillance, data collection, and research on how to solve the growing problem.
The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which was passed earlier this month by the House and Senate, specifically funds state committees to investigate maternal deaths and to share the information nationwide in order to identify potential solutions.
A coalition of more than 80 organizations, including the American Hospital Association and American Medical Association, urged Congress to pass the bill by the end of 2018.
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The authorization of $58 million for each fiscal year from 2019 through 2023 will support 33 existing states with maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs) and assist the remaining 17 states develop them, as well as to standardize data collection across the country.
“Right now, we still don’t really have good data on what’s happening,” says Quianta Moore, fellow in child health policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute. “We know that trends are rising but it’s still not clear why.”
MMRCs assess pregnancy-related or pregnancy-associated deaths, and based on those findings develop recommendations for how to prevent future loss of life. The committees come up with their recommendations by linking death certificate and birth certificate or fetal death records, as well as data on maternal deaths such as medical and social records.
“Having a more systematic way to collect data, review the files and cases and figure out why women are dying is going to be critical to addressing the problem,” adds Moore. “The goal is to identify the root causes for the increase in maternal mortality in the United States. The disparities in maternal mortality are even more troubling.”
Surveillance efforts funded under the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act include identifying groups of women with disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality and identifying the determinants of disparities in maternal care, health risks, and outcomes.
For example, Moore notes that nationally African-American women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication such as preeclampsia than white women.