California's maternal deaths nearly halved even as the U.S. rate went up. Here's what they did

Maternal mortality in the U.S. has come into focus as a growing national concern in recent months, even inspiring a funding request by Congress in July aimed at reducing the deaths of mothers during childbirth.

Now a report published in Health Affairs on Tuesday shows how California sought to tackle maternal deaths, reporting that its maternal death rate was cut nearly in half even as the U.S. national maternal death rate doubled.

“These deaths were largely preventable and they’re all tragic," said lead author Elliott Main, M.D., medical director of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC), in an interview with FierceHealthcare. The CMQCC was founded at Stanford University School of Medicine together with the state of California and includes more than 200 member hospitals. The multistakeholder organization was created in 2006 to address rising maternal mortality and morbidity rates.

Eliott Main, M.D. (CMQCC)

While they cannot specifically attribute the drop to any single action taken by the collaborative, California’s maternal death rate has fallen from 13.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005-2009 to 7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2011-2013—a rate comparable to that of Western Europe. The study outlines several key developments made by the collaborative that may be associated with the improvements.