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Report Shows Steep Decline in MA Maternal Health


Kathryn Carley

Racial and gender inequities in Massachusetts have contributed to a steep decline in maternal health, according to a new report.

The Department of Public Health found that the number of mothers experiencing complications from pregnancy or delivery nearly doubled from 2011 to 2020 with severe morbidity rates for Black, non-Hispanic women now more than two-and-a-half times their white counterparts.

Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Robert Goldstein called the data “tragic.”

“It is racism and not race that is driving a lot of the inequities that we are seeing in the data,” she said, “and the solutions that we are proposing are really leaning in on that message.”

Goldstein said his department is working with MassHealth and providers to help better train clinicians to consider how racism may impact their interactions with patients, as well as expand medical-school curriculum to include training on unconscious biases.

Massachusetts established a Maternal Health Task Force last year to help address some of the most critical gaps in direct maternal care, especially for low-income families. Goldstein said the goal is to create a statewide strategic plan to improve care in all communities.

“And we’re thinking of ways that, through legislative funding, we can expand things like remote blood-pressure monitoring and the way that we implement levels of maternal care in various hospitals,” she said.

Goldstein said it’s critical the state be transparent with data exposing the racial and structural barriers preventing people from receiving the care they need, and most importantly to grow the public’s trust in the health-care system.

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