May 4, 2010

New York City's Rising Black Maternal Mortality Unexplained

AUTHOR:VariousSOURCE:Womens E-News-4/18/2010

Although LIFE FOR MOTHERS' (LFM) major focus is directed to saving mother's and newborn's lives in developing countries, the United States has a massive maternal health crisis as previously highlighted in the Amnesty International Report in Topics In Focus. Their report stated that the US maternal death rate has doubled in the last 20 years from 6.5 deaths per 100,000 live births to 13.5 deaths per 100,000 live births. A report from the journal, The Lancet, estimated the maternal death rate at 17! Amnesty International noted that pregnant women of color in the US die at a rate that's 4X that of white women. Recently, New York City has reported that the death rate for African-American women is 8X greater than for white women. This tragedy has gone unrecognized and left the Bloomberg administration baffled. LFM believes that an aggressive and holistic strategy must be implemented in NYC as well as in the US. (LFM will be implementing this strategy in rural Uganda later this year.) LFM not only wants to raise awareness regarding this issue but more importantly, change health policy so that all women and infants have the opportunity to live full and enriching lives, which mirrors America's long history of enabling people all over the world to fight persecution and discrimination. It's high time that we also focus our energies on our own soil. Here is the entire article from Womens E-News-4/18/2010--
New York City is one of the most fatal cities in the United States for a woman to have a baby. That's the indication from the most recent data on maternal mortality here, which show black women are nearly eight times more likely to die during pregnancy or right after childbirth than white mothers. In 2008, black women in New York City experienced 79 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 10 white maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, and a national rate of 13 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the latest data available. The rate of maternal deaths among black women in New York City has increased annually since 2004, when the city reached a low of 44 black maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. That's all according to vital statistics released by the city in January. "If I were mayor I'd be saying, 'This is a priority,'" said Maureen P. Corry, the executive director of Childbirth Connection, a New York-based agency working to improve maternal health through research, advocacy and policy. "'This needs urgent attention. What is happening to women in our city?'" New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg started the year with the upbeat news that the average New Yorker's life span had increased by five months to 79.4 years, a historic high. At the same time, the city extolled the success of agencies in reducing smoking and infant mortality, helping to make the city one of the healthiest in the United States. While not specifically mentioning mothers, Bloomberg acknowledged that the need to reduce preventable deaths and health disparities in the city persists. A spokesperson with Bloomberg's office declined to comment on the most recent maternal mortality statistics. In the United States, more than two women die from pregnancy-related complications every day, according to an Amnesty International March report "Deadly Delivery." In addition to rising maternal mortality rates, the occurrence of a 'near-miss,' a term used to describe severe complications that nearly take the life of a pregnant woman, rose by 25 percent from 1998 to 2005, to nearly 70,000 women, Amnesty reported. Only five states, including Vermont and Maine, have achieved the federal 2010 goal of cutting maternal deaths to 4.3 per 100,000 live births, according to the report. The disturbing trend in black women's maternal health in New York City has been unfolding in apparent obscurity, with sparse major academic research found that analyzes the trend. Overall, New York City had 30 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008. That number is almost double the statewide rate in California, which has climbed to 17 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in what some are tying to an increase in deliveries by Cesarean section. "Hospitals doing a maternal mortality review are looking at how to respond to women," said Deborah Kaplan, assistant commissioner of New York City's Bureau of Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health, which is helping hospitals assess the city's 141 maternal deaths that occurred between 2001 and 2005. New York City and state health officials have not coordinated an effective action plan to target the myriad contributors to maternal mortality. Hemorrhaging, embolism, a hypertensive disorder and heart disease are the leading causes of maternal deaths, according to the New York State Department of Health. Other experts cite C-section-related complications. Hypertension and pre-existing medical conditions that distress mothers are more prevalent among black women and are compounded during pregnancy. A third of black women who gave birth in New York City in 2008 had pre-pregnancy obesity, which many consider to be a pregnancy complication. Nearly 70 percent were on Medicaid, the federal health program for low-income people. "As a result of increased poverty and likelihood to face chronic stress and poor access to quality care, black women are likely to enter their pregnancy having health factors that put them at risk," Kaplan said.

Did you know?

Between 1990 and 2008, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by one third.

Source:The World Health Organization, 2010

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