Agencies aim to tackle maternal mortality, say more needs to be done


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Mothers are dying from birth complications at alarming numbers across the country, and experts say half of those are preventable. But some say the stereotypes that are involved with the issue is part of what perpetuates the cycle.

Panelists discussed the issue at a SXSW event held Friday, which was moderated by Elizabeth Krause, who works for the St. David’s foundation. One of those stereotypes includes people thinking that mothers who don’t follow doctor’s advice are the ones who are dying. 

But the research shows otherwise. 

“A lot of these women are healthy all through their pregnancy,” said Renee Montagne, who is a journalist with National Public Radio. Her most recent project involved a yearlong collaboration with Pro Publica reporter, Nina Martin, where they investigated the rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. as compared to other developed countries. She added it’s not about women not having prenatal care, it’s about hierarchy. 

“People think, they don’t listen, they’re fat,” said Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, who is the Founder and President of National Birth Equity Collaborative. But she said the conversation needs to be about mom’s understanding the risks and having access to health care no matter their race or income level.

Awareness about the issue is also crucial. She said she now gets a call about it daily from state agencies, including Health and Human Services, wanting to tackle the issue and to be a part of helping moms.

“Now they are all clamoring to figure this out.”

Women of color have been shown to make up most of those numbers, and it’s not about education, or lack thereof, she explained. “A woman who has a college education is more likely to die than a white woman, we can’t educate ourselves out of this.”

Panelists agreed stories done by the media are a crucial component to bring awareness and for change to happen for mothers. That is one of the reasons KXAN worked on their months-long Mothers Erased investigation, which revealed the state had removed mothers from a list who had died of birth complications. 

In Texas, the exact number of women who died isn’t clear due to errors with data collection that keep doctors and researchers from fully understanding and preventing those problems.

Read KXAN’s Mothers Erased investigation here. 

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