Maternal Health Accountability

Over the weekend, I read an article in the Huffington Post by Christy Turlington discussing maternal health legislation in the US. Most people probably know Christy Turlington as a supermodel, but she’s also the founder of the organization Every Mother Counts and directed/produced a documentary on maternal mortality entitled “No Woman, No Cry.” Ms. Turlington is currently touring the US screening her film and her article in the Huffington Post deals with the issue of maternal mortality in the US, specifically with the introduction of H.R. 894.

Earlier this month, U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Michigan) introduced H.R. 894, the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011. The bill would provide grants to states intented to improve maternal health and data collection on mortality rates. As a condition of receiving grants, States would be required to:

  • Require health professionals and facilities to report pregnancy-related deaths
  • Investigate and develop case findings and summaries for each occurence
  • Establish review committees with ob-gyns, nurses, social workers, health care facility representatives and other relevant stakeholders to recommend prevention strategies
  • Disseminate findings and recommendations

Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be required to:

  • Research disparities in maternal care, risks, and outcomes, and improve the capacity of the performance measures to measure disparities
  • Expand access to services that have been demonstrated to improve the quality and outcomes of maternal care for vulnerable populations
  • Compare the effectiveness of various interventions to reduce maternal health disparities

It’s important legislation, but it remains to be seen whether the House has an appetite for taking on this kind of project in the current political environment. The issue of maternal mortality in the U.S. is below the radar for most Americans, which adds to the challenge of pushing a bill like this through. So it’s nice to see someone as visible as Christy Turlington championing the cause. Looking forward to seeing her full film when it’s released later this spring.

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