A package of nine individual bills has just been introduced that aim to improve health for black mothers in the United States. “Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020” is led by Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Representatives Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Alma Adams (NC-12). All three are members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, founded in 2019 to improve black maternal health outcomes.
Statistics show that black women are nearly four times more likely than white women and more than twice as likely as women of other races to die from preventable, pregnancy-related complications. They also experience higher rates of maternal complications and infant mortality.
The Act is designed to fill gaps in existing legislation to comprehensively address every dimension of the black maternal health crisis in the nation. If passed, the bills included in it will result in the following:
- Critical investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, such as housing, transportation, and nutrition;
- Funding for community organizations working to improve maternal health outcomes for black women;
- Comprehensive study of the unique maternal health risks facing women veterans and investment in Veterans Administration maternity care coordination;
- Growth and diversification of the perinatal workforce to ensure that every mother in America receives maternity care and support from people she can trust;
- Improved data collection processes and quality measures to better understand the causes of the maternal health crisis in the United States and inform solutions to address it;
- Investment in treatments for maternal health care and substance use disorders;
- Improved maternal health care and support for women who are incarcerated;
- Investment in digital tools like telehealth to improve maternal health outcomes in underserved areas; and
- Promotion of innovative payment models to incentivize high-quality maternal care and continuity of health insurance coverage from pregnancy through labor and delivery and up to 1 year postpartum.
Among the over 100 organizations endorsing the Act are the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, American College of Nurse-Midwives, and Planned Parenthood.
Said Senator Harris in a press release about the legislative package, “Black women across the country are dying from pregnancy and childbirth complications at astounding rates and the disparity transcends income and education levels. It is critical that the federal government work with states, local health providers, and mothers and their families to address the crisis and save lives.”