Healthcare Advocates Sound Alarm about Disturbing Trends in Maternal Care Access, Especially for Black Women

Lansdowne, PA – Pennsylvania Secretary of Health and Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson joined state leaders and patients today during a visit to an organization that serves pregnant women and families to address health disparities black maternal and maternal health deserts throughout Pennsylvania.

“As a board-certified OBGYN who has spent decades caring for people during their pregnancies, I understand the importance of working harder to provide access to quality maternal services for all during pregnancy and later,” said Dr. Johnson. “The latest data show that in Pennsylvania, more than 105,000 women aged 18-44 live in counties with little or no obstetric care. It is completely intolerable.”

During a press conference today at the Pettaway Pursuit Foundation – a nonprofit educational and community outreach organization for pregnant women and families – the heads of the Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Commission on Women and the Advisory Commission of the Governor for African American Affairs have highlighted disturbing trends in access to maternal care.

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According to a recent March of Dimes report, maternity deserts are on the rise in Pennsylvania, with six counties considered maternity care deserts, up from five counties in the previous report. A maternity care desert is a county where there is a lack of resources for maternity care, no hospitals or birth centers offering obstetric care and no obstetric providers.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that maternal mortality rates increased between 2019 and 2020, and that black women are nearly three times more likely than white women to die after giving birth. birth

“My deep concern for the lack of prioritization around maternal health care needs in Delaware County has allowed me to understand and further investigate the critical inequities and life-threatening disparity for women and births in my district and across the Commonwealth,” said the Representative. Gina Curry, member of the Pennsylvania Commission on Women. “The growing increase in maternal deserts has disproportionately exacerbated maternal mortality rates and more specifically the life-altering devastation that has more than doubled the impact around Black maternal health outcomes, accessibility and the fair health care we all deserve. This crisis continues to destroy lives. It’s unacceptable!”

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“Black women experience the highest maternal mortality rates of any other subgroup in the United States,” said LaDeshia Maxwell, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs. “It is important that in Pennsylvania, we do everything we can to ensure that black women have access to fair and quality maternal care. Maternity care deserts only make it more difficult for black women to receive the care they need for problems that are “common” for our demographic, such as hypertension. As we review the results of the March of Dimes report, I urge you to consider increasing the number of maternal care providers in Pennsylvania and better support providers of black women’s health care doing the work to make sure black women get quality care.”

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Dr. Johnson noted that potential solutions to maternal desertions and disparities in care are being developed, including:

  • expanding access to doula care;

  • expand obstetric services;

  • focusing various workforce initiatives to get more OBGYNs and midwives into communities that need them;

  • provide satellite obstetric clinics;

  • increase home visiting programs;

  • using mobile units to deliver care; and

  • leveraging telemedicine and telesurveillance services.

The Pennsylvania Commission for Women and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs continue to work closely with community stakeholders and the Wolf Administration to address maternal health deserts in Pennsylvania. The commissions support Governor Wolf’s call to the General Assembly to create and pass meaningful legislation and work toward solutions to these problems.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark O’Neill – [email protected]

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