Marking its third anniversary of working to improve the wellbeing of American mothers, March for Moms rallied on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on May 11. Contemporary OB/GYN was there as speaker after speaker underscored how much work is needed to address the rising maternal mortality rate in the United States.
As noted by the rally organizers, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized country and more than 50% of maternal deaths are preventable. Poor access to care, inadequate prenatal care, maternal comorbidities, and racism all contribute to these outcomes.
Led by President Dr. Ginger Breedlove, March for Moms is a national nonprofit representing a coalition of more than 40 leading organizations that act as stewards of maternal health and wellbeing. Last year, the coalition successfully advocated for the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2018. This year’s rally marked the introduction of a new executive director for the organization, Katherine Shea Barrett, who previously served as Policy Director for Care Delivery Transformation and Strategy for the Massachusetts Health Policy Division.
Along with Ms. Barrett, speakers at the rally included Dr. Neel Shah, vice president of March for Moms; Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Dr. Judette Louis, President-Elect of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine; ob/gyn resident Dr. Sarp Aksel; Dr. John Cullen, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians; and Charles Johnson of 4Kira4Moms.
A family physician in Valdez, Alaska, Dr. Cullen described the challenges inherent in providing adequate maternity care to women in rural areas. According to statistics compiled by March for Moms, in some rural areas, families may need to travel more than 30 miles to reach a physician or midwife, which can lead to poor outcomes such as premature births, maternal and infant mortality, and racial disparities in care.
4Kira4Moms was founded by Mr. Johnson after the death of his wife, Kira, in 2016 due to complications after a routine cesarean delivery. The organization’s mission is to advocate for improved maternal health policies and regulations, to educate the public about the impact of maternal mortality in communities, provide peer support to the victim's family, friends, and promote the idea that maternal mortality should be viewed and discussed as a human rights issue.
Read more on Mr. Johnson's story - A new normal: How families and fathers are affected by maternal mortality