News / USA

Maternal Mortality Remains Serious Threat in Major American Cities

Maternal Mortality Remains Serious Threat in Major American Cities
Maternal Mortality Remains Serious Threat in Major American Cities

Multimedia

Audio

Worldwide, giving birth is far less dangerous than it was even two decades ago.  A new report shows that maternal mortality, however, remains a serious threat - even in wealthy, industrialized nations.

A report released by New York City's health department says the percentage of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth in the New York metro area is double that of the national average.  Health officials in New York say the maternal mortality rate in the United States itself rivals that of poorer developed countries like Singapore and Ireland.

Dr. Jo Boufford
Dr. Jo Boufford

Dr. Jo Boufford, president of the New York Academy of Medicine, which sponsored the maternal mortality conference where the report was released, says the developed and the developing worlds tend to promote different strategies to fight maternal death.  And she says while both approaches have merits, each alone is only partially effective.     

"The difference is the developing countries have focused on public health, prevention and primary and prenatal care in the area of maternal mortality," says Boufford.  "And their struggle and barrier is having an adequate health workforce and facilities for the kind of high-tech things that happen to mothers that are at risk …"

In contrast, Boufford says developed nations have excellent medical technology.

"But we have a rather poorly developed system of good primary care and prenatal care," she continues.  "And our problem is connecting the prenatal care with the delivery site, making sure the information about a patient travels with that patient when they go into labor and go to the hospital.  So we can deal with the high-tech and the crisis.  Our problem is we're not focusing upstream on the prevention and the primary care, and the developing countries are just the opposite."

Maternal mortality in America is particularly high in New York City, where extremes of wealth and poverty abound, says Deborah Kaplan, who oversees the Bureau of Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health for New York City's health department.  The department analyzed the causes of 161 maternal deaths in New York between 2001 and 2005. The study found that half the women who died were obese and that 56 percent had a chronic illness, such as high blood pressure, heart disease or asthma.  Black women were seven times more likely to suffer a pregnancy-related death compared to white women.

"And we think the issue for black women is they are more likely to be obese and have chronic illnesses, like high blood pressure, which put you at higher risk for complications during pregnancy," says Kaplan.  "Black women, who are more likely to be uninsured, are living in communities where there is limited access to the healthy foods and exercise and activity that is necessary from childhood on to reduce the likelihood of obesity and chronic illnesses."

Kaplan's agency is redoubling its efforts to identify obese women early in their pregnancies and to make sure their health care providers treat them as high-risk patients.  It also is issuing health alerts to hospital delivery wards to diminish the risk of death in childbirth due to hemorrhage, which is more likely among obese moms.

"We recommended hemorrhage drills just like fire drills.  For an event that doesn't happen very often, people need to practice. That's on the clinical end.  On the bigger environmental end, our agency is involved in many areas related to obesity prevention that look at increasing access to healthy foods in the community.  It's about raising awareness and engaging people in the community so that they are part of this work, so they can prevent obesity and chronic illness that can lead to maternal death," says Kaplan.

To promote change at the grassroots level, the city is building coalitions that bring together community and government agencies. It also is encouraging leaders at faith-based communities to educate their congregations about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

"We work to promote breast feeding to prevent childhood obesity, which is where it all begins in terms of child health," says Kaplan.  "We work with schools to get unhealthy foods out of the schools and … promote health foods within the school environment. And we work with parents and community residents to really understand why this is so important, and for them to hopefully demand these healthy foods and places to exercise in their own communities."

Dr. Boufford says that the medical community also must examine its practices.  For example, there may be a correlation between maternal mortality and Caesarean births, or so-called "C-Sections," which are performed in nearly half of all deliveries in some New York hospitals.  The report, released Friday, found that 79 percent of New York women who died in childbirth had undergone the procedure.

"Now, that may be because they are sicker and they needed it, and C-Sections certainly save lives," says Boufford.  "There is no question about that. But we need to understand much more about that.  And I think the comfort with technology may have gotten ahead of what may be the best in terms of the management of the patient."  

Government health departments nationwide are studying new strategies to protect maternal and child health, such as those outlined by the United Nations Millennium Goals, which calls for education, economic development and community empowerment to save lives and eliminate preventable suffering.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid