AMWA leaders Dr. Roberta Gebhard, Dr. Connie Newman, Dr. Eliza Chin, Victoria Sanchez attended the 4th Annual NIH Vivian W. Pinn Symposium hosted by the Office of Research on Women’s Health. Held on May 15, 2019 during Women’s Health Week, the symposium focused on “Improving Maternal Health: Behind the Numbers.” Featured speakers included Former ORWH Director Dr. Vivian Pinn, ORWH Director Dr. Janine Clayton, ACOG Immediate Past President Dr. Lisa Hollier, ORWH Associate Director Dr. Samia Noursi, March of Dimes CEO Stacey Stewart and other federal leaders.
The symposium opened with the sobering story of Dr. Shalon Irving, a highly educated, African American epidemiologist at the CDC who died from complications of pregnancy 3 weeks after giving birth. It was a story that “made it personal” for so many and a reminder of the disproportionately high morbidity and mortality rates among black women as compared to white women.
USA Today reported in 2018 that “The U.S. is the most dangerous place in the developed world to deliver a baby.”
Notable facts presented:
- Each year 700 women die of pregnancy related causes.
- African American women are 3-4x more likely to die of pregnancy related causes than white women.
- Women aged 35-39 are almost 2x as likely to die of pregnancy complications as women 20-24 and the risk is even higher for women 40 or older.
- At least 50% of maternal deaths are preventable.
- The number of women who have severe maternal morbidity (SMM) has been steadily increasing in recent years, with a doubling of the rate from 2000-2010.
- Chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity may put women at higher risk of pregnancy complications.
- Significant reductions in maternal mortality and morbidity cannot be accomplished without addressing gaps in care for black and native American women.
- The Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) is working to create a culture of patient safety.
- Social determinants of health are important factors which must be addressed.
- The goal is to improve the social and economic conditions and quality of healthcare at all stages of woman’s life and ensure that all woman have affordable health insurance, life insurance, the best cheap car insurance they can find, etc, so that there are no maternal care deserts.
The symposium concluded with reminder that “Research is the strategy for answering the difficult questions…to know what works for which women, in what context and where.”