The Global Maternal Mortality Crisis Is a U.S. Child Welfare Crisis
Every day, over 800 women around the world die as a result of complications during and following pregnancy and childbirth. In the United States alone, in 2018, pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births (the pregnancy-related mortality ratio or PRMR) for Black and American Indian and Alaska Native women older than 30 was four to five times as high as it was for white women. The global maternal mortality crisis continues to plague women across the world ultimately threatening the lives, health and well-being of children and families with racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related deaths persisting over time.
This week, the Women’s Congressional Policy Institute held its third virtual briefing series on global maternal health: “Childbirth Should Not Be a Death Sentence: Global Maternal Health and the Impact of COVID-19.” This briefing – held in conjunction with the leadership of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues – featured Joy Marini, Global Director of Insights for Global Community Impact (GCI), Johnson & Johnson, and Melanie Lopez, acting Health Director for faith-based organization World Vision. Both discussed the roles that the private sector and faith-based organizations play in working to decrease the global mortality rate, as well as the impacts COVID-19 has had on widening the growing disparity of maternal deaths for women in low-income areas globally and nationally.
Marini explained that one of the leading causes of these growing disparities is the lack of access to maternal health care for women of childbearing age across the United States – also known as maternity care deserts. “In Georgia, the maternal mortality rate is the same as it is in Syria,” Marini explained. “In New Jersey, it’s the same as it is in the Gaza Strip. This is a global issue.”
The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries. Yet, 90 percent of these these deaths are preventable. Because of this, it is critical for policymakers to view the reduction of the maternal mortality rate holistically. We must advocate for women – especially women of color – to receive adequate access to not just pre and postnatal care, but opportunities to live healthy and sustainable lives before pregnancy. Varying factors – including poverty, inadequate access to clean air and water, preexisting health conditions and racial bias within with health care system – are contributing to the growing disparities facing women of color prior to, during and after pregnancy. Without policy in place to remove these barriers and protect women, this rate will continue to increase within the United States leaving children more susceptible to entering the child welfare system—as we know health care inequities and social determinants of health and well-being can impact who comes into child welfare—or possibly dying within their first year of life.
Our dedication to ensuring children have the best possible opportunities to thrive in life begins with ensuring the health and well-being of mothers. To learn more about ways to advocate for women and children to have better access to health care, information and resources, visit March of Dimes, and visit the Women’s Congressional Policy Institute to access the full webinar on Global Maternal Health.