April 18, 2022
Alliance of Community Health Plans Associate Director of Clinical Innovation Eva Powell and National Partnership for Women and Families Vice President for Health Justice Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, JD, call for health industry and federal action on the maternal health crisis in an op-ed for MedPage Today.
Is the Health Care Industry Really Committed to Ending the Maternal Health Crisis?
by Eva Powell and Sinsi Hernández-Cancio
Improving the health of the next generation starts with eliminating gaping inequities in maternal health outcomes. When the U.S. Vice President issues a call to action and follow-up measures to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity—an issue the industry has known about for decades—it is past time for healthcare leaders to make concrete investments in solving our nation’s longstanding maternal health crisis.
Congress has an opportunity to lay important groundwork for our nation’s future by passing the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act — a suite of legislation designed to tackle the maternal health crisis among Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. The legislation, led by Rep. Lauren Underwood (D.-Ill.), MSN, MPH, and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), is unique in that it was written with significant input from women of color, particularly Black women, who face the most adverse maternal health outcomes. As a result, it addresses the most basic foundations for more equitable and improved maternal health outcomes for all people. Congress should also pass a universal extension of Medicaid coverage from 2 months to 12 months postpartum — associated with significant improvements in maternal health outcomes — to address this crisis.
Yet, real progress will require far more than just these Congressional actions.
The drivers of maternal health inequities are multifold and complex. They include substandard clinical care, disparate care of people of color, persistent structural socioeconomic inequities, and the physiological impact — known as “weathering” — of racism on people of color in our society. Systemic racism is a root cause of these drivers, and must be addressed alongside clinical care quality, coverage gaps, and the upstream adverse social drivers impacting maternal health.
The work won’t be easy. Stakeholders, both public and private, will have to commit to long-term investments instead of short-term gains. But progress is possible.