A Texas Congressman asked me if the alarming maternal mortality statistics within our state were true. Maternal mortality—when a mother dies from pregnancy related to complications while pregnant or within 42 days of giving birth—apparently doubled in Texas between 2010 and 2012. While the complete accuracy of the data is debated, black mothers accounted for just 11 percent of Texas births, but 20 percent of maternal deaths from 2012 to 2015.
In Texas, low-income women generally don’t have access to health insurance, birth control, substance abuse treatment, and prenatal care. Writers in the journal Birth state there could be statistical skewing caused by misreporting on death certificates, but they do not dispute the increase of maternal mortality.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Texas has the highest uninsured rate for women in the country, approaching 20 percent. Lisa Hollier, chair of the Texas Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity, has stated that curbing Texas’ maternal mortality rate “isn’t going to be a situation where there’s a single cause and single solution.” She added: “I think the rate is likely rising based on the best information that we have right now. I think that having any maternal deaths that are preventable is too many.”
During the past year, Governor Greg Abbott thankfully signed several bills to reduce maternal mortality, including the state publishing best practices and protocols for reporting deaths. Some bills failed to pass the Legislative Session, including extending a mother’s eligibility for postpartum depression screening for a year.
In fairness, this is not just a government problem, but a statewide community crisis. Many religious-based programs, food banks, family centers and planned parenthood affiliates throughout Texas offer many programs for these women’s issues. Services for prenatal care, birth control, pregnancy tests, postpartum care, diabetes and high blood pressure are available. Many local mental health agencies also provide services for pregnant women and postpartum disorders. But is more collaboration needed?
As I said to the Texas Congressman, yes, the maternal mortality statistics in Texas are quite alarming. We own this problem. It’s time for the state, local communities and all Texas stakeholders to join forces and work collaboratively to improve our women’s health programs. It truly is a matter of life and death, and together—we will succeed!
Steve Love is the president and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.