In 2018, three important pieces of legislation were signed into law that have the potential to move the dial on our nation’s abysmally high maternal and infant mortality rates, as summarized below and by policy experts at the Nurse-Family Partnership.
- The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2018 (H.R. 1218) authorizes and funds administration of new state and local Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs), composed of multidisciplinary experts who count pregnancy-related deaths and identify prevention opportunities. Bill supporters see MMRCs as critical to efforts to address racial and ethnic disparities in maternal mortality rates, especially as data collects over time and across states. In early March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the resultant $43 million grant program for states.
- The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act of 2018 (S. 3029) renews various programs focused on addressing preterm birth. Provisions include renewal of the CDC’s research and prevention programs focused on the topic, reauthorization of the Health Resources and Service Administration’s (HRSA) work to promote healthy pregnancy and prevent preterm birth, expansion of the charge of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality to examine severe maternal morbidity, and creation of an entity within the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate all federal activities and programs related to preterm birth, infant mortality and other adverse birth outcomes.
- The Improving Access to Maternity Care Act (H.R. 315) requires HRSA to identify areas of the country with a maternity care health professional shortage and ensure the necessary health professionals within the National Health Service Corps are assigned to those target areas. It also requires that HRSA track and publish data on maternity care needs in these underserved areas. This is an important opportunity to expand access to maternity care for women in rural areas, given that more than half of rural counties in the United States have no hospital-based obstetric services.
As Advocacy & Communication Solutions continues working with organizations committed to improving maternal and infant health, such as First Year Cleveland, we are enthusiastic to see this kind of bipartisan support for maternal health policies with state and local implications.