Rise in US maternal mortality, an indication of racial inequality

The US maternal mortality rate, already the worst in the developed world, rose in 2020 to its highest level in half a century, with black women three times more likely to die than white women, according to data published Wednesday (23/2). ).

The National Center for Health Statistics report shows that the figure is 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births, much higher than other countries, such as Canada, where the figure is 7.5 per 100,000, according to OECD statistics for the same year.

In all, 861 women were declared to have died from pregnancy, which the World Health Organization defines as death during pregnancy or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, of any cause but associated or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management.

In 2019, the number of deaths per 100,000 US live births was 20.1, while in 2018 it was 17.4.

“We are observing increases across a large number of categories, and Covid-19 is likely to play a role,” Donna Hoyert, who wrote the report, told AFP.

However, he added the disease was not mentioned in 88 percent of cases, so it only reflected part of the overall picture.

Even though it costs twice as much per person on health as the average high-income country, America remains marginalized in terms of maternal mortality compared to other countries.

Worldwide, maternal mortality declined throughout the 20th century thanks to advances in medical treatments such as antibiotics and basic hygiene. But America, unlike most other countries, has been in decline since 2000.

In fact, the last time the US rate was officially this high was 1968, although reporting methodologies were only introduced in 2018.

“Most equal states have some form of universal health care,” Boston University professor Eugene Declercq, who studies the field, told AFP.

“What we’re doing in America is we’re very focused on care at birth and that’s great — but the fact of the matter is, women enter pregnancy unwell because they have health insurance.”

Some conservative states, such as Texas and Alabama, have raised barriers to accessing Medicaid, a publicly funded health insurance program, Declercq said.

The upper income threshold for enrolling in Medicaid is lower for women who are pregnant, but there is a greater chance that when they become pregnant, they have a chronic condition that does not receive treatment. [my/jm]