Industry Voices—How hospitals are working toward zero maternal deaths

Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with mothers and babies across the care continuum, from working as a nurse providing prenatal care in a clinic and helping deliver babies in the labor and delivery unit and caring for postpartum mothers to caring for sick and premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The women and families made these experiences fulfilling, and my desire then is the same now: for every new and expectant mother to have a healthy pregnancy and for babies to have a healthy start.    
However, we know that pregnancy-related deaths and maternal morbidity have risen. The causes for the escalating rates of maternal mortality are multifaceted and include a lack of consistent access to comprehensive care and persistent racial disparities in health and healthcare. But, one preventable complication is one too many.

That’s why hospitals and health systems are redoubling our efforts to make sure women have safe pregnancies and positive health outcomes across the continuum of care. We are urging providers to listen to women, test their implicit biases and assess disparities that increase the risk of negative outcomes.

RELATED: The impact of Medicaid expansion on maternal, infant health

As part of the Better Health for Mothers and Babies initiative, the American Hospital Association has called on hospitals to evaluate and act on their data, examine disparities, engage mothers and families and partner with clinicians and stakeholders in our community to ensure women are getting the care they need before, during and after pregnancy. 

We are also working with our partners in the field, policymakers and community organizations to improve outcomes for mothers and babies.

Recognizing the need for collaboration and accelerated federal action to address the maternal health crisis, we continue to assess and support various federal proposals.

For instance, we support numerous provisions of the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness Act (H.R. 1897/S. 916)—bicameral legislation that would improve state maternal mortality data, provide funding to promote safe practices and cultural competency and extend health coverage and services for low-income postpartum women.
When mothers and their families enter our doors, they expect to be treated with dignity and respect, to be heard and to receive patient-centered care. Hospitals and health systems are committed to reversing our nation’s maternal mortality and morbidity rates and ensuring women get the safest, highest quality care that addresses their specific needs.

Robyn Begley, R.N., is a senior vice president and chief nursing officer for the American Hospital Association. She also serves as the CEO of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership.