After years of battle, New York’s campaign to advance maternal and perinatal health is set to gather momentum in 2023 as a significant health panel oversees changes to the nation’s budget and the healthcare system.
According to the body, known as the maternal-mortality review board, over 80% of pregnancy-related deaths could have been avoid, noting health disparities and deficiencies in mental health treatment.
The state of New York’s maternal mortality rate has fluctuated steadily between 20th and 30th nationwide in recent years, with severe racial differences in death rates, despite past efforts to make pregnancy and childbirth safer.
Effects of the NY state budget on maternal health
The impending state budget process in New York, which will determine how billions of tax funds flow to health-related concerns, is crucial to maternal health programs.
Before a final spending plan is finalized in April, months of legislative bickering will begin when Governor Kathy Hochul issues an executive budget in January. It will serve as the first indication of priorities.
The current budget allocates $20 million annually to provide women with prenatal and postnatal care. Postnatal Medicaid coverage was also extend from 60 to one year.
Additionally, some lawmakers have advocated for new legislation and investments in maternal health in the upcoming budget, citing, among other things, the fact that Black women in New York are five times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related reasons.
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, D-Brooklyn, recently said on Twitter about the effort: “We’re facing a maternal death crisis, and as a survivor, I’m fighting to end this and to ensure treatment in hospitals to end disparities.”
Why maternal mortality is still high in New York
The investigation conducted by the USA TODAY Network in 2019 revealed several hospitals nationwide failed to adopt crucial safety measures to safeguard women, and the new panel’s focus on preventable maternal fatalities builds on those findings.
One of the panel’s most recent areas of focus included mental health issues, which were responsible for 20% of pregnancy-related deaths in New York.
Among the recommendations:
- The mere fact that a patient is pregnant should not lead psychiatric drugs to be automatically stop.
- It is consider standard of care to screen for depression throughout every pregnancy.
- There must be more care coordination between mental health and prenatal care professionals.
- Increase emergency medical professionals’ understanding of prenatal mental health issues.
The council will provide more recommendations for various maternal health problems in the upcoming months. To learn more about the panel, go to health.ny.gov.
How COVID demonstrated racial differences in maternal mortality
One of the suggestions made by a state task committee established in 2019 to eliminate racial disparities in maternal fatalities in New York was the establishment of a new panel.
The panel’s initial conclusions stated that structural racism and prejudice had a part in the deaths of women in New York due to avoidable complications during childbirth.
The panel reported that discrimination was a possible or definite circumstance surrounding the death in 46% of all pregnancy-related deaths examined.
The epidemic also exposed the pervasive social, economic, and medical problems related to maternal health inequity.
For instance, while COVID-19 decimated their communities, maternal fatalities among Hispanic and Latina women nationwide experienced a sharp increase. Between 2019 and the first year of the pandemic, their maternal death rate increased from 12.6 to 18 fatalities per 100,000. According to the most recent federal data, it then reached almost 28 fatalities per 100,000 in 2021.