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Disparities in Maternal Health Require Solutions that Address Barriers to Quality Care

Surprisingly, the United States continues to have one of the worst maternal health outcomes of any developed nation, and the only such nation with maternal mortality rates that have steadily increased since the 1980’s.

Much of this trend is even more troubling as the statistic further details that race and ethnicity represent the strongest role. Statistics (The Commonwealth Fund, Nov. 2020) show that the United States lead all developed nations by far in the somber deaths per 100,00 live births at 17.4 versus the next closest developed nation France at 8.6.

Many of the factors contributing to severe events are present before are worsened by pregnancy. Advanced maternal age and other comorbidities such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc. all have exponential effects in creating high risk pregnancies. These not only affect the birth but continue to affect a new mother even after giving birth.

But maternal health is more than just the labor and delivery process, and going forward we need to think more expansively about how to provide health care services to women of all races and ethnicities before pregnancy, and how we continue to care for them after they give birth.

This requires more population health-type solutions that get at ‘social determinants’ and other barriers to quality care, such as lack of access to qualified providers, transportation problems, antiquated rules about paid time off, poor health literacy, unsafe communities, and more.

The pandemic has been a tragedy that has tested us all. But COVID-19 has shone a bright light on systematic issues that have been challenging to progress in health care. With an expansion of value-based care and government continuing to make improvements in both our manufacturing and data collection, expansion of access and enhanced maternal outcomes, we could see a series of important changes and overcome the current status quo that has plagued the United States for so long.

As an employer, you have more influence to help bend the curve with these challenges then you may think. Obesity, Diabetes, Hypertension all are at epidemic proportions in America. But all three (as other conditions) have great promise to improve dramatically through case management engagement, improved education, diet, exercise adjustments, drug therapies and other lifestyle management adjustments. Member communication and engagement programs for employees along with disease management engagement programs can help your employee population and their dependents create a healthy future and access to tools can help change the trajectory of their future. Insurance carriers, medical and case management providers as well as other supporting resources are available to help your base create a healthy lifestyle.

As the insurance market continues to shift and the environment becomes more competitive and challenging, understanding the benefits landscape and maximizing your benefit investment is critical. Reach out to your local OneDigital consultant to learn more about our Member Engagement and Communication and Health & Wellbeing Solutions.