US does not track maternal death rates due to poor data, lack of funding

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The U.S. does not know how many women died from pregnancy or childbirth in the past year, nor how many maternal deaths are preventable, nor if rates have improved over the past few decades, according to a report from ProPublica.

This lack of public health data stems from flaws in data collection and a significant lack of funding, according to the report. Death certificates are the primary source of mortality statistics for the CDC. However, information is often missing, misreported or reported by someone without a background in obstetrics, and it is already often difficult to identify maternal deaths.

To help address this, the National Center for Health Statistics in 2003 mandated states add a checkbox to death certificates to identify if a woman who died was pregnant or had been within a year of her death. Some states already had this checkbox — but tracked pregnancies within 42 days, six weeks, three months or 12 months, according to the report. However, many believe the checkbox inflates the maternal mortality rate by linking deaths to pregnancy that were actually unrelated.

Some states have review committees to better classify maternal mortality cases, but there is no national body to review the statistics and data or standardize the process. A scientist from the CDC created a Maternal Mortality Review Information Application to gather data from state review panels, which has data coming in from about 12 states, according to the report. MMRIA is funded entirely by Merck for Mothers, an initiative funded by the pharmaceutical company, according to the report.

Read more here.


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