Raising Women’s Voices

Maternal health and the well-being of our communities

Posted in DC Reform, Health Disparities, Maternity Care, Reproductive Health Care by raisingwomensvoices on February 20, 2009

Last week, we posted on a conference on Capitol Hill at which congressional leaders unveiled a comprehensive framework for women’s health in national health care reform.  Kimberly Seals Allers, over at Womens eNews, has looked in-depth at the central importance of maternal health in the well-being of not only women, but our families and communities.

By targeting women, you reach millions more, says Dr. Vivian Pinn, director of the office of research on women’s health at the National Institute of Health. “Women are the portal to family and community health. When we talk about maternal health, we are talking about improving families and communities. This is one of the most important things we can address for the health care of the whole country.”

The author discusses how care for early-born babies can cost up to 15 times as much as full-term newborns, not to mention the lifelong ailments and disabilities that result from poor prenatal and maternal care.  It’s yet another example of the costs of the system’s inadequate focus on preventative, routine care.

black-maternal-healthA disturbing figure, the United States ranks 41st out of 171 countries on maternal mortality rates.  Perhaps more disturbing, however, are the racial disparities hidden behind the statistic of 13.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.  While the number is only 9.3 for non-Hispanic white women, it is 34.7 among non-Hispanic black women.  Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative and dedicated advocate for health care rights of women, girls and communities of color, says, “Women are suffering from the breakdown of their reproductive systems and if this does not become an agenda item on health care reform, women will continue to not have the support of the country.”

It has become clear that better maternal health cannot begin with conception, or even the childbearing years of a woman’s life.  Public health and medical experts are advocating a “life continuum” approach that will consider women’s reproductive health throughout their lifetimes, from childhood to old age.

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