No More Patience, No More Pilots. A Call to Action for How We Approach Maternal Health in the United States
Like countless others across the country, I was heartbroken by the recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics, showing a 40 percent increase in maternal deaths in the U.S. in 2021. After taking some time to reflect on these results, I wanted to share a few words from my heart, as a woman, as a mother and as a founder of a company who has been focused on supporting healthy pregnancies and births for the past decade.
We can no longer accept the fact that it is more dangerous for a woman to give birth in America than in any other high-income country. We also can no longer accept the fact that Black mothers are more than 2.5 times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. The time for patience is over. Progress is no longer enough. Small scale pilot programs and initiatives that just skirt around the edges of the issues are insufficient. We need transformation, both in terms of how we deliver care and how we pay for it. We need to embark on that journey immediately.
At Wildflower, we are honored to work with amazing clients who are committed to this transformation. A great example is the recent partnership we announced in New Jersey, working with a consortium of leading health systems and OB-GYN practices to change the trajectory of maternal health outcomes across the state. But overall, we need to see much more collaboration across the country. We need to take bolder steps and place some real bets on innovation, on transformation.
Look at all the funding that has flowed into the women’s health space in recent years. Consider all the technologies and solutions that have emerged, some of which have proven effective in addressing at least one piece of the overall puzzle. As an industry, we have the tools and technology available to address challenges with access, equity, quality and overall patient experience.
We fully understand the risks and complications that lead to the vast majority of preventable maternal deaths. We are capable of proactively identifying these risks and referring women to care, either virtually or in-person before they reach a point of no return. We know that many women lack basic access to maternity care, and we have multiple technologies at our disposal to help address this issue. We know what we must do to help clinicians be appropriately equipped to deliver the care they want to provide. We know how to structure value-based models that align incentives and allow for investment in new approaches to care.
And yet, here we are. Working hard and heading backwards. Why? Because incremental change and the normal pace of healthcare innovation is not sufficient to address the problems we face. If we want to make sure we never see another 40 percent increase in maternal deaths, we need to come together and move faster. Health systems, OB-GYN practices, health plans, solutions innovators, state government agencies all have to partner at an unprecedented level for the benefit of women across the U.S.
The obstacles ahead are many. Maternity deserts continue to grow. The available OB-GYN workforce continues to shrink. Americans continue to trend in unhealthy directions. Healthcare costs continue to rise. We have to create a new path forward. In the short-term that requires additional effort and leaps of faith. Is the community you serve worth the effort?
My company’s mission is to ensure the best care, for ALL women, every time. I believe that can happen in this country. I believe we collectively have the power to make things right and to dramatically reverse maternal mortality in the U.S. I also believe we will fail miserably if we continue to work in silos and if we continue to take baby steps toward change instead of embracing transformation.
This is a call to action. If you want to lead change in your community, I want to help you. Let’s bring the right stakeholders to the table and create an action plan for transforming maternity care so that every woman has the opportunity for a healthy pregnancy. If you no longer accept the state of maternal health in this country, I want to hear from you. We must do everything we can to turn the tide on maternal deaths in the U.S. Moving the needle will take courage to implement the strategies at our disposal as quickly as possible. Every day we wait is a day another child is left without a mother.