Texas Physicians Adopt “Zero Maternal Deaths” Goal

May 19, 2019 

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) will not rest until maternal mortality is eliminated in Texas.  

Carlos J. Cardenas, MD, TMA’s immediate past president, threw down a gauntlet today to his physician colleagues — a goal of zero deaths among Texas women who are pregnant or new mothers. 

“One maternal death is one too many,” he told the hundreds of physicians in the policy meeting. “Let’s aim for zero!”

The TMA House of Delegates accepted Dr. Cardenas’ challenge and voted unanimously to add that lofty goal to what had been a seven-point plan to address Texas’ maternal health crisis.

“I know that, today, we may not have the tools, we may not have the technology, we may not have the knowledge to understand how we will ever reach that goal,” Dr. Cardenas said. “I know that, today, there are some maternal deaths we cannot fathom how to prevent. But that doesn’t mean we should ever stop trying.”

Texas’ widely reported maternal mortality rate — the number of deaths — ranged from 14.6 to 18.6 deaths per 100,000 live births in the most recent data available. Conversely, the rate for California during the same timeframe was 6.2 per 100,000. For Texas’ African-American women, the rate was 27.8 deaths per 100,000 live births, and for women age 35 and over the rate was 32.2.

And for every Texas woman’s death, about 50 others suffered complications or serious illness.

The House of Delegates on Saturday hashed out the plan to reduce the number of women dying or getting gravely ill surrounding pregnancy and early motherhood. During the discussion, Dr. Cardenas told doctors the report was very good, but needed a “big, hairy, audacious goal.”

“I propose to add one more recommendation to this report,” said the Edinburg physician, “that TMA adopt as formal policy the goal of eliminating maternal mortality in Texas.”

The report was the result of the first-ever TMA Maternal Health Congress in March of this year. Doctors who attended the congress proposed 36 solutions to address the problem of women dying or becoming very ill during pregnancy, childbirth, or within the first six weeks after giving birth. The causes are many: Lack of prenatal care, substance abuse, underlying poor health conditions, depression, and other behavioral health issues, the lifelong impact of systemic racism, and lack of access to contraception (and unplanned pregnancies).

Among the solutions the House of Delegates adopted today:

  •  Ask Texas to request a federal waiver to build a tailored health benefits program for uninsured women of childbearing age. This program will provide the kinds of health care — including primary care, behavioral health care, preventive care, and specialty care — to keep Texas women healthy before, during, and after pregnancy. 
  •  Have TMA develop a formal education program to help Texas physicians better recognize substance use disorders among the women, and find treatment options. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of maternal death in Texas. 
  •  Eliminate unnecessary barriers and red tape preventing women from easily obtaining the most effective forms of contraception: intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants. The Maternal Health Congress report states, “Increasing women’s ability to plan and space their pregnancies leads to lower abortion rates, improved infant and maternal health, educational and economic opportunities for women and their families, and cost savings for the state.” 
  •  Have TMA develop a formal education program for physicians, nurses, and hospitals on the best practices proven to prevent death and disease among women during and after pregnancy. 
  •  Have TMA develop a campaign to educate the public on how women can make motherhood safer by taking better care of themselves before they get pregnant, getting early and timely care when they become pregnant, and knowing where to find help after their babies are born. 

 “I am confident that this plan, when implemented, will make sure it’s safe to be a mom in Texas,” said Dr. Cardenas.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 51,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.


TMA Contacts:  Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear[at]texmed[dot]org

Marcus Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper[at]texmed[dot]org

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Last Updated On

May 22, 2018