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How California Is Lowering Maternal Death Rates

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Vox has had some interesting articles on healthcare recently. Here’s a long, but good read by Julia Belluz on women’s healthcare and how California has instituted protocols that have cut maternal death rates to 7.3 per 100,000 in 2013 while the US average stood at 22 per 100,000.  Belluz writes,

“In the US, childbirth has been growing more dangerous recently. Maternal mortality — defined as the death of a mother from pregnancy-related complications while she’s carrying or within 42 days after birth — in the US soared by 27 percent, from 19 per 100,000 to 24 per 100,000, between 2000 and 2014.

That’s more than three times the rate of the United Kingdom, and about eight times the rates of Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, according to the OECD.

It’s a stunning example of how poorly the American health care system stacks up against its developed peers. More women in labor or brand new mothers die here than in any other high-income country. And the CDC Foundation estimates that 60 percent of these deaths are preventable.

But as the mortality rate has been edging up nationally, California has made remarkable progress in the opposite direction: Fewer and fewer women are dying in childbirth in the state.

So how did California manage to buck the trend? I was curious, particularly as American women’s health is under assault, with the GOP push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

I went to California to learn about what they were doing right, and found that all roads led to CMQCC, the multi-disciplinary health collective (based out of Stanford).

On my first day in Orange County, I met with Dr. David Lagrew, an OB-GYN and founding member of the CMQCC, at his office in St. Joseph Hospital. He’s been instrumental in helping drive down California’s maternal mortality rate…”

But there’s still work to be done to keep maternal death rates decreasing. It’s unclear how changes to healthcare legislation will impact women’s health and maternal mortality rates. The plans that have been introduced in the House and Senate have some people worried because of proposed cuts to Medicaid, potentially defunding Planned Parenthood and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 22 million people would lose insurance. Other issues also require attention as Belluz points out.

“Maternal health is also becoming more complicated. The clinical complications CMQCC has focused on so far — hemorrhage, preeclampsia — are being outpaced by lifestyle-related health issues, like cardiovascular disease and opioid addiction. There are also astounding racial disparities in maternal health: Black mothers are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. It’ll require more than well-meaning doctors and nurses to fix these problems.

Still, California has demonstrated that even in our messy and imperfect health care system, progress is possible. They’ve shown the rest of the country what happens when people care about and organize around women’s health. Policymakers owe it to the 4 million babies born in the US each year, and their mothers, to figure out how to bring that success to families across the country.”

You’ll find the full article on the Vox website. It’s a worthwhile read.

Photo credit:
Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

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