WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee leaders sent letters to six federal agencies today requesting briefings on efforts to address the alarming rate of maternal morbidity and mortality in the United States. Since 1987, the number of reported pregnancy-related deaths in America has more than doubled from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births to 18.0 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014.
The bipartisan committee leaders wrote to request briefings from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Indian Health Service (IHS), and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH).
The letters were signed by Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR), Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Oversight and Investigations Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY).
“Maternal morbidity and mortality in the United States is a major public health concern,” the committee leaders wrote in their letter to CDC. “Over the last two decades, the number of women who die each year during pregnancy or within a year of delivery in the United States has increased dramatically.”
The rising maternal mortality rate is even more alarming when taking ethnic and racial disparities into account. According to CDC, from 2011 to 2014, there were 12.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women, 40.0 deaths per 100,000 live births for black women, and 17.8 deaths per 100,000 live births for women of other races. American Indian and Alaska Native women also experienced significant disparities in maternal mortality with 23.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in IHS areas from 2007 to 2009.
“While maternal mortality rates have been increasing in the United States in recent years, since 1950, black mothers have continued to die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, representing one of the widest racial disparities in women’s health,” the committee leaders continued.
In 2018, Congress passed the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act to enhance federal support of states to improve data collection and reporting of maternal mortality. The legislation also called for the development of surveillance systems at the local, state, and national level to better understand the burden of maternal complication. Last month, CDC announced a funding opportunity made possible by the new law.
“This is an important first step, and we are interested in exploring additional efforts that may be underway to further improve reporting, data collection, and activities related to reducing maternal morbidity and mortality,” the committee leaders wrote to several agencies.