By some accounts, Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country, and Texas physicians are looking for ways to reverse that alarming trend.
That’s why the Texas Medical Association has thrown its support behind a bill before the U.S. House of Representatives that would help states combat maternal deaths.
TMA, along with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force, signaled its support for the bill in a recent letter to U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville). The letter asks Representative Burgess, an obstetrician and chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, for his leadership in getting "The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act" through Congress.
HR 1318 would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to make grants to states to:
- Review pregnancy-related deaths;
- Create maternal mortality review committees; and
- Ensure that state health departments develop plans for ongoing physician education to improve the quality of maternal care.
The bill would also help health officials collect information on maternal mortality.
"HR 1318 will support and reinvigorate the important work of state-level review teams that strive to better understand the risk factors and causes of maternal deaths," the letter states. "We know that systematic, confidential analysis of the medical and non-medical circumstances of deaths that occur during pregnancy or up to one year after - for the purpose of taking action - can reduce the risk of women dying."
The letter also notes that although states are doing more to make preventable maternal deaths a priority, they are often hamstrung by lack of or inconsistent funding. For instance, Texas does not have dedicated funding to support its Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force. The task force shares a Texas Department of State Health Services nurse who works on other projects as well. This has resulted in a backlog that is likely to grow.
The letter notes that other states, like Wisconsin and Connecticut, have similar problems.
"There is a clear need," the letter says, "for federal action to support nascent and ongoing state and local maternal mortality prevention efforts."
TMA has consistently supported legislation and other efforts to lower maternal mortality and morbidity rates. In 2017, it backed Senate Bill 17, which gave the state's task force more time to study the issue. The bill passed, allowing the task force to work until 2023.
TMA also has information and resources on maternal mortality and morbidity on its website.