AUSTIN (KXAN) — Too many mothers in Texas are losing their lives before they ever get to see their babies grow up.
The state Health and Human Services found 382 mothers died between either while pregnant or within one year of giving birth between 2012 and 2015.
“The United States is actually one of the worst-developed countries in terms of maternal mortality,” said Anastasiya Byelousova, a junior at UT Austin. “And then when you look at that, and see that Texas ranks [one of the] worst in an already not great country on maternal mortality, I think it was just disappointing.”
That’s why Byelousova and three of her University of Texas at Austin classmates, two professors and one graduate student will be spending 10 weeks this summer in Georgia.
“We have to tell people up front, that’s the country not the state,” said junior Parth Gupta.
“Talking about Georgia, that’s not a country that often comes up as a topic of conversation,” Byelousova added.
They said it may be surprising, but Georgia has managed to decrease its maternal mortality rate by nearly half.
“Maternal mortality is usually defined as the number of deaths per 100,000 births,” Gupta explained. “In Georgia, in 2015, I think it was around 36 per 100,000 and a few years later, they got it down to around 18 or 17.”
“While they created that success, they have not done much research themselves as to what exactly happened. They just know that it improved,” said Byelousova.
Recently, a report done by the World Health Organization did find “Georgia has made progress on a number of [public health] indicators, such as maternal and infant mortality rates, incidence of tuberculosis and treatment of new and relapse TB cases.
The report also pointed out some areas the country didn’t improve, but it praised the country for reforming its health care system. It says:
“The main goals for these reforms were to ensure universal access to high-quality medical services, to improve the primary health care system and to decrease the financial risks to the population posed by high out-of-pocket expenditures on health.”
The UT students want to hone in on what worked specifically for decreasing maternal mortality.
“It’s really tragic to think of because you hear maternal mortality, and you think of kind of, way back when 100 years ago, people didn’t have health care the same way we have today. Now we have it today. Why is it still happening?” said Michael Sanchez who will be going on the research trip.
Gupta said one hypothesis they have is how the country administers its health care services.
“We know that recently they implemented a policy of regionalization, which — instead of centralizing resources at the top of the government — distributed those resources to regional health boards and hospitals, so we’re looking into that as a possible reason for success,” Gupta said.
The students said they will be interviewing doctors, nurses, government officials and recent mothers. They hope to speak with as many people as possible to learn as much as they can.
Byelousova said she hopes what they learn will be implemented here at home.”We’re hoping that we can go there and start to figure out what happened, so we can leave them with information as well.”
Sanchez said: “We’re spending our time learning and exploring. That’s what we’re doing in college, so we’re just learning and exploring about this specific issue that happens to really matter.”