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Advancing Maternal Health Equity

April 25, 2023
April 25, 2023

There are more than 700 maternity-related deaths each year in the U.S. Maternal mortality rates have not improved in ten years and the U.S. performs worse on this metric than any other high-resource country.

Through the Maternity Care Action Plan, which aligns with the Biden-Harris Administration’s Maternal Health Blueprint, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is seeking to improve maternity care access and quality, improve health outcomes, and reduce disparities in maternal healthcare.

The Maternal Health Blueprint

In June of 2022, the Biden administration released the Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis. The White House describes the effort as a “whole of government” approach to cutting the rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, reducing the disparities in maternal health outcomes, and improving the overall experience during and after pregnancy.

The administration’s plan includes five priorities: 

  1. Increasing access to and coverage of maternity services including behavioral health and substance use. The plan also addresses expanded access in rural areas and Indian Health Services (IHS).
  2. Ensuring that women are decision-makers in accountable systems of care. The federal government has supported initiatives from the Perinatal Quality Collaboratives and provider networks to implement the kinds of practices that will support a system where women are heard and respected.
  3. Advancing data collection, standardization, transparency and research to facilitate the analysis of poor pregnancy outcomes and to make improvements that will support healthy pregnancies.
  4. Expanding and diversifying the maternal care workforce to support women during pregnancy. To address the gaps in the perinatal workforce the government aims to increase the number of physicians, midwives, doulas and community health workers and encourage reimbursement for midwives and other perinatal supports such as doulas and home visits from nurses.
  5. Strengthening economic and social supports for women before, during and after pregnancy including expanded access to insurance, post-partum health services and behavioral health services. Recognizing that the healthcare system alone cannot fully address the maternal health crisis, this part of the plan recommends additional screening to evaluate the social determinants of health.


The Maternity Care Action Plan

In July of 2022, CMS announced its Maternity Care Action Plan. The goal of the plan is to support the Biden administrations Maternal Health Blueprint. The plan includes measures to support the improvement of maternal health outcomes and the reduction of inequities during pregnancy and the post-partum period. This action plan is intended to improve maternity care for Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollees.

The plan also includes policies for the Birthing-Friendly hospital designation. The designation will be available on a CMS website where consumers can access information about how hospitals have demonstrated a commitment to high-quality maternity care by documenting that they have adopted best practices that result in safe, equitable care for pregnant and post-partum women. This designation would allow women and their families to choose hospitals that have made a commitment to providing high-quality maternity care.


Preparing for the Maternity Care Action Plan

Providing evidence-based education to healthcare providers is foundational to preparing for these initiatives. HealthStream’s Child and Maternal Health Portfolio is a comprehensive solution for healthcare leaders who need to ensure that staff are prepared to help the organization meet the requirements of the Maternity Care Action Plan.

This portfolio of maternal specialty care solutions includes:

  • Quality OB - a focused data-driven instructional program that can have a measurable impact on team performance and lead to significant reductions in negative events.
  • Association of Women’s Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) Content – the comprehensive NOEP, POEP and MFTI programs provide evidence-based, clinical training for neonatal and perinatal nurses.
  • Children’s Hospital Association Pediatric Learning Solutions – enhances clinical competency and confidence in pediatric care.
  • Jones & Bartlett10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding – supports the implementation of the World Health Organization’s and UNICEF’s “Baby-Friendly” status and provides resources for breastfeeding.
  • Lactation Education Resources – provides training to help build and develop lactation and breastfeeding skills necessary for breastfeeding nursing care plans.
  • ALS OB – addresses ways in which to modify standard algorithms when caring for pregnant or recently-delivered women.
  • The S.T.A.B.L.E. Program – a nationally recognized program on infant pre- and post-resuscitation stabilization.