New law provides data-mapping tool to lower maternal mortality

Andis Robeznieks , Senior News Writer

Maternal mortality and morbidity rates in the U.S. are unacceptably high, but a new law provides a tool that will help identify locations where help is needed so interventions can be developed to save lives.

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The “Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act” (S. 198 and H.R. 1218) was signed into law by President Joe Biden just before Christmas, with the AMA’s support. The law calls for the Federal Communications Commission—in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—to incorporate publicly available data on maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity for at least one year postpartum into its Mapping Broadband Health in America platform.

The AMA voiced its support for the bill in a letter to leaders of the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce.

“The AMA is committed to working with a variety of stakeholders to tackle the issues surrounding maternal mortality and morbidity,” AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, MD, wrote in the letter (PDF). “The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries, and according to the CDC, 60% or more of these maternal deaths are preventable.”

He also noted that CDC data shows that Black and Indigenous women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women.

Visit AMA Advocacy in Action to find out what’s at stake in improving maternal health and other advocacy priorities the AMA is working on.

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Examining the Black U.S. maternal mortality rate and how to cut it

AMA policy calls for working with the CDC and state and county health departments to cut U.S. maternal mortality rates.

It also encourages all state and county health departments to develop, implement, and sustain a maternal mortality surveillance system that centers around health equity.

The policy includes a pledge that the AMA will encourage research on identifying barriers and developing strategies toward the implementation of evidence-based practices to prevent disease conditions that contribute to poor obstetric outcomes.

A summary of related AMA policies and advocacy can be found in “Reducing Inequities and Improving Access to Insurance for Maternal Health Care” (PDF), a joint report produced by the AMA Council on Medical Service and the AMA Council on Science and Public Health.

The many factors identified by the AMA as leading to poor maternal outcomes include:

  • Lack of insurance or inadequate coverage prior to, during and after pregnancy.
  • Closures of maternity units in many rural and urban communities.
  • A lack of inter-professional teams trained in best practices.

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Our Black maternal health crisis is an American tragedy

AMA maternal health advocacy efforts include urging policymakers to:

  • Expand Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage to 12 months postpartum.
  • Increase support for maternal mortality review committees.
  • Implement equitable standardized data collection methods.
  • Expand access to medical and mental health care and social services for postpartum women.
  • Continue developing a health care workforce that is diverse in background and experience.
  • Adopt standards to ensure respectful, safe and quality care before, during and after delivery.

Notably, part of the end-of-year $1.7 trillion omnibus law Congress enacted included a permanent option for states to provide Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum.

The AMA supports ensuring new mothers have access to and coverage of telehealth services and broadband and internet-connected devices, so that the barriers to accessing postpartum care and addressing health disparities are reduced, Dr. Madara wrote in a  separate letter to Senate leaders (PDF) in support of the “Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act.”

“Pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period will always carry some degree of risk,” Dr. Madara’s letter says. “We as a nation must do all we can to minimize that risk and help ensure that mothers and their babies thrive throughout pregnancy and for the rest of their lives.”

Learn about the AMA’s strategic plan to embed racial justice and advance health equity.