WASHINGTON - Veteran black Detroit Congressman John Conyers has just introduced H.R. 894, the “Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011.” This legislation would provide grant funding for States to establish Maternal Mortality Review Committees to examine pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated deaths and to identify ways to reduce maternal mortality rates. The legislation also would also help eliminate higher risks for women of color, those living in poverty, Native and immigrant women. It will also improve data collection to eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes.
“Improving maternal health care should be a key priority for our federal and local governments,” said Conyers. “We have an obligation to ensure that every mother has adequate access to the medical care she and her future baby need during a pregnancy. Unfortunately, there is evidence that, for large segments of our population, access to maternal health care services is severely limited.
“Women cannot afford for this matter to be neglected any longer. Therefore, I have introduced the “Maternal Health Accountability of 2011,” so that policy makers at the state and federal levels will have the information they need to protect the health of women and thus the overall health of our country. However, without a uniform state-level data collection, it is extremely difficult to investigate causes of maternal deaths and develop cost-effective interventions to prevent these tragedies.”
In the United States, more than two women die every day from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The aggregate pregnancy-related mortality ratio in the United States was 14.5 per 100,000 live births from 1998 through 2005, higher than the previous 20 years. Additionally, African American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women.
The “Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011” as a condition of receiving grants will require States to do the following provisions:
Require health professionals and facilities to report pregnancy-related deaths,
Investigate and develop case findings and summaries for each occurrence,
Establish review committees with ob-gyns, nurses, social workers, health care facility representatives and other relevant stakeholders to recommend prevention strategies, and
Disseminate findings and recommendations
·The Department of Health and Human Services will develop a research plan to identify and monitor severe maternal morbidity in the United States, which by some accounts has risen 25% between 1998 and 2005, to approximately 34,000 cases a year.
·The Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with national stakeholder organization, will:
Research disparities in maternal care, risks, and outcomes, and improve the capacity of the performance measures to measure disparities,
Expand access to services that have been demonstrated to improve the quality and outcomes of maternity care for vulnerable populations, and
Compare the effectiveness of various interventions to reduce to reduce maternal health disparities.
Amnesty International welcomes the introduction of the groundbreaking proposed federal legislation that would fund state boards to investigate pregnancy-related deaths and identify effective prevention strategies to reduce overall complications and deaths. . H.R. 894 identifies a key recommendation of Amnesty International’s comprehensive 2010 report, “Deadly Delivery” as a major step toward preventing or reducing high rates of maternal deaths in the United States, a problem that has seen no improvement in over 20 years.
Amnesty International Executive Director Larry Cox said: “For decades the United States has shamefully ignored the tragic and often preventable deaths of women from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The Maternal Health Accountability Act finally is a major step toward reducing the terrible rate of deaths. Congressman Conyers and the House members who join him as co-sponsors of the bill recognize that morally we can no longer stand by and watch more and more women die needlessly. We have neglected the health and well-being of women during pregnancy and childbirth for too long.”
“The United States is at the bottom of all industrialized countries in terms of the number of women who die in childbirth and from pregnancy-related causes. We can and must do better and we urge Congress to pass this life-saving legislation,” said Cox.
The Maternal Health Accountability Act, if passed, would help make improving maternal care a key priority for federal and state governments.
Rep. Conyers said: “I am very pleased to have partnered with Amnesty International and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in addressing the maternal health care crisis in the United States. Improving maternal health care should be a key priority for our federal and local governments. In 2007, the national maternal mortality ratio was 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is unacceptable and we must all join together to reduce the occurrence of maternal deaths. It is our duty to protect the health of women and thus the overall health of our country.
The bill would provide grant funding for states to establish Maternal Mortality Review Committees to examine pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated deaths and to identify effective strategies to reduce maternal mortality. It will also improve data collection and establish programs to eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes.
In addition the bill would expand programs that are shown to improve outcomes in maternal health for vulnerable groups. This is of critical importance because, African American women are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, according to Amnesty International’s groundbreaking report in March 2010, “Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the U.S.A.” These disparities have not improved in over fifty years.
Maternal deaths are only the tip of the iceberg, with one woman suffering a “near miss” (nearly dying from pregnancy-related complications) every 15 minutes, or 34,000 women a year. The Maternal Mortality Accountability Act would support research and develop a model for improving data collection and analysis to reduce these severe complications.
The report documented that more than two women die every day from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 34,000 women each year suffer a “near miss” a complication so severe that it nearly caused death. Approximately half of these deaths and complications could be prevented if maternal health care were available, accessible and of good quality for every pregnant woman.
Calling the situation a “human rights crisis,” Amnesty International urged the U.S. government to live up to its obligation and develop a coordinated and consistent approach to maternal care that eliminates health disparities and makes sure that all women have access to quality care. Because there is currently no robust, systematic government response to this critical problem, Amnesty International also called on the government to set up a single office within the Department of Health and Human Services to help ensure that all women can obtain timely and appropriate care during pregnancy.
In addition, the organization called on the federal government to ensure that the system is accountable, requiring nationally standardized data collection with each state reporting maternal deaths. “The Maternal Health Accountability Act is a significant step towards achieving those goals,” said Nan Strauss, a co-author of the “Deadly Delivery” report.
The United States spends more than any other country on maternal health care and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care, but American women have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than those in 49 other countries.