From the Guardian (Aug 21, 2016):

“The rate of Texas women who died from complications related to pregnancy doubled from 2010 to 2014, a new study has found, for an estimated maternal mortality rate that is unmatched in any other state and the rest of the developed world.

The finding comes from a report, appearing in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, that the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased between 2000 and 2014, even while the rest of the world succeeded in reducing its rate. Excluding California, where maternal mortality declined, and Texas, where it surged, the estimated number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births rose to 23.8 in 2014 from 18.8 in 2000 – or about 27%.

But the report singled out Texas for special concern, saying the doubling of mortality rates in a two-year period was hard to explain ‘in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval’.”

For the full article:

How will Texas avoid even more horrors in this realm if/when Zika hits the state and the need for good maternity care rises precipitously, given the cut in clinics across the state?  How is the state preparing to help the populace?

From the NY Times (Sept. 8, 2016):

The rate at which women die during pregnancy or shortly after childbirth has fallen sharply in many nations as maternal care has improved. The United States — and particularly Texas — is a glaring exception.

In Texas, for instance, according to a study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the maternal mortality ratio — maternal deaths per 100,000 live births — doubled to 35.8 in 2014 from 17.7 in 2000. Compare that with Germany, which had 4.1 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014.

In California, that figure fell from 21.5 in 2003 to 15.1 in 2014, but in the remaining 48 states and the District of Columbia it increased from 18.8 in 2000 to 23.8 in 2014. The United States as a whole had the second-highest maternal mortality ratio among 31 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Only Mexico had a higher figure.

A Heavier American Toll

Unites States maternal mortality rates are among the highest of members of the O.E.C.D.

Mexico 38.9

Texas 35.8

48 states and D.C. 23.8

Turkey 15.2

California 15.1

Britain 6.7

Maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, 2014.*

Canada 5.7

Germany 4.1

Japan 3.3

Netherlands 2.9

*Canada figure is from 2012, the latest available.

A big part of the problem is the inequality embedded in America’s health care system. The 2010 Affordable Care Act made health insurance more available, but millions of families still cannot afford the care they need. And lawmakers in many states and many Republicans in Congress have repeatedly shortchanged reproductive health programs because of ideological opposition to contraception and abortion.

The surge in maternal mortality in Texas defies easy explanation. Such increases typically happen during war, natural disasters and severe economic distress. State Republican lawmakers sharply reduced spending on women’s health care in 2011 in an effort to eliminate government funding of Planned Parenthood. The cuts, which took effect at the end of that year, don’t account for all of the increase, but they certainly don’t aid maternal health.

The biggest killers during and after pregnancy in Texas are cardiac problems and overdoses involving prescription opioids and illegal drugs, according to a recent report by a task force created by the Texas Legislature. It also found that maternal mortality was much higher for black women in Texas than for white and Hispanic women.

Texas lawmakers could address some of these problems by investing more in health clinics in minority communities and in mental health and addiction treatment. Expanding Medicaid to cover 1.2 million more poor people would also be very helpful. Texas is one of 19 states that have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, despite the law’s generous terms, with the federal government picking up nearly all of the cost for low-income families.

Texas can also learn from California, which has organized doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and public interest groups in a collaborative to focus on maternal mortality. The group has developed state-of-the-art treatments for causes of maternal death like hemorrhages and pre-eclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure and organ damage.

But even California could go further. Despite some improvement, its maternal mortality ratio far surpasses that in nations like Germany and Britain, where it is 6.7 per 100,000. One reason for Britain’s low figure is a mandatory system of confidential reviews, in place since 1954, of every maternal, newborn and infant death to determine what went wrong and how doctors and hospitals can improve. That’s easier in Britain’s single-payer, government-run health system, but it should not be impossible for state governments to develop something along these lines.

One of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals was to reduce global maternal mortality by three-fourths between 1990 and 2015. The world missed that target but still reduced maternal mortality by 45 percent. Set against that progress, America’s record is unconscionable.


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