COLUMBUS, OH – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a roundtable discussion in Columbus with patients, advocates and health providers to address health disparities, combat African American maternal mortality and reduce the maternal mortality rate statewide. Brown hosted the roundtable at PrimaryOne Health, as black maternal mortality rates are continuing to climb in Ohio and across the nation. Ohio is currently ranked as the 26th worst state for maternal mortality, and the Ohio preterm birth rate among African American women is 49% higher than the rate among all other women.
“The Black Maternal Health Crisis has shed light on the implicit biases that still exist in our health care system, and the many barriers to care that so many in our community face,” said Brown. “We know we need to do more – that’s why I’m here today, and it’s why I’ll be hosting more of these conversations around our state.”
Today’s roundtable is the first in a series that Brown will host across the state, as he works to hear directly from Ohioans on how best to address health disparities that contribute to black maternal mortality. Brown was joined at the roundtable by DeLena Scales, a mother and advocate in Linden.
“As a mother who’s given birth on Medicaid and with private insurance I believe the black birthing experience is very much shaped by access to quality healthcare and knowledge of available programs, resources and services. Education is the key. Several women in my family lost children before their first birthday and my cousin died days after giving birth to her son. Poor birth outcomes was the norm in my family. So when I lost my son I thought this is what happens. It wasn’t until I completed the CelebrateOne, Community Health Worker program that I realized this is not normal!
This is why I believe to improve black maternal outcomes we must educate black boys and girls about chronic stressors and the impact these stressors have on birthing outcomes and life expectancy prior to pregnancy. We need multifaceted trauma responsive interventions that address health across life span, health literacy, advocacy, social determinations of health and economic security,” said DeLena Scales.
This month, Brown is set to introduce his Helping Medicaid Officer Maternity Services (Helping MOMS) Act, which would help combat maternal mortality by guaranteeing 12 months of continuous Medicaid coverage for postpartum women, thus preventing gaps in insurance coverage that often prevent mothers from getting the care they need after birth. The Helping MOMS Act would give moms the health security and coverage they need during the critical post-delivery period, as almost one quarter of maternal complications and deaths occur after six weeks postpartum. The postpartum period also marks the stark disparities within health outcomes for African American Women.
Brown has been working to combat the black maternal mortality crisis, including introducing the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness Act in March, which would establish national obstetric emergency protocols, improve best practices for maternal mortality review committees, and standardize data collection and reporting.
In June 2019, Brown joined Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in introducing the Maternal CARE Act, which would address persistent biases and shortcomings in our nation's health care system, by investing in programs that address racial biases in maternal healthcare.
Brown has also introduced the Healthy Maternal and Obstetric Medicine (Healthy MOM) Act, legislation to ensure that all women eligible for coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance marketplaces, as well as women eligible for other individual or group health plan coverage, can access affordable health coverage throughout their pregnancies.
Brown’s Improving Access to Maternity Care Act was signed into law in December 2018, and works to identify areas lacking maternal health care professionals and provide incentives for providers practicing in those areas, to help ensure women have access to timely, high-quality maternity care.