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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid