By addressing pregnancy-related deaths among black women, Ohio lawmakers aim to help everyone

Ohio Statehouse News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Nearly 700 women die every year from pregnancy-related complications, according to the Center for Disease Control. Of those deaths, three out of five could be prevented.​

Here in Ohio, this is highly concerning for members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus because the CDC also says that black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.​

Formed last year, the Black Maternal Health Caucus has spent months organizing, developing principles and priorities to address this issue, according to State Rep. Stephanie Howse.

​”Right now, we know that unfortunately black mothers are getting the brunt end of what is happening in our health system when it comes to pregnancy and so if we are able to address those who are being severely impacted, everyone else truly will benefit,” said Howse.​

From 2008 to 2016 there were 610 pregnancy-associated deaths in Ohio. Of those, nearly 30 percent occurred within six weeks of becoming pregnant; the other 70 percent happened up to one year after pregnancy.​

For pregnancy-related deaths, the most common cause was cardiovascular and coronary conditions.​

Deaths that were associated with pregnancies, but not related to them, were mostly unintentional injuries.​

Howse and the Black Maternal Health Caucus believes that focusing on fixing the issue would bring those numbers down, and because the situation affects black women more than most other ethnic groups, they feel bias may be a contributing factor.​

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“We know that people go into health care to help people,” said Howse. “We want to help everyone, understanding our real biases in this system that have led to death.”​

She said work needs to be done to help people understand their biases and how to recognize them.

“How do we fix it? How do we help our health practitioners understand what their biases are, so that they can check them, they can recognize them when it happens, and then they can meet the need and care for black mothers,” said Howse.​

The caucus laid out six principles to work from:

  • Quality and Affordable Health Care
  • Equitable Education Funding
  • Strong and Healthy Family Support Networks
  • Vibrant Neighborhoods
  • Access to Upward Social Mobility
  • Eliminating Systematic Gender Biases in Neighborhoods, Communities, and Workspaces.

​ It also laid out five priorities:

  • Data Improvement
  • Workforce Development
  • Patient Health
  • Quality of Life
  • Education

​For the remainder of the 133rd General Assembly, the caucus plans to focus on three of these priorities — Data Improvement, Patient Health, and Education.

​”We have to take stock and not just send our prayers and our regrets,” said Howse. “We have to put things in action to ensure that preventable deaths are actually that — preventable.”

​To achieve some of its goals, the caucus is pushing or creating several bills including House Bill 11, a bill modifying the Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review (PAMR) Board; another bill seeking paid family leave; and a third bill looking at the reimbursement structure for birth workers and doulas.​

“Those are some of our initial legislation priorities that we will be focusing on as a caucus, that we know, if supported, will immediately help to close the gap in the disparities when it comes to black maternal health,” said Howse.​

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