Since 2002, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health recognizes April as National Minority Health Month, established to support efforts to educate on and eliminate health disparities for ethnic and racial minority groups. This year, the Office is highlighting the importance of providing healthcare services, information, and resources that are linguistically and culturally competent to create better and more equitable health outcomes for everyone. 

April is also when Black Maternal Health Week is recognized. Nationally, thousands of women experience pregnancy-related health complications, or death occurring during their pregnancy, delivery, and up to one year after giving birth, with more than 80% being deemed preventable. Unfortunately, Kentucky has experienced similarly negative maternal health outcomes. Data from 2016-2020 on pregnancy-related deaths in Kentucky occurring within six weeks of delivery show 34.6 deaths per 100,000 live births, the third worst rate in the nation. And, key findings from 2018 show that 91% of maternal deaths were potentially preventable.

In recent years, the Kentucky legislature has heard testimony on the maternal mortality rates and taken important steps to address disparities by passing legislation that extends Medicaid eligibility for up to twelve months postpartum, requiring an annual report on child and maternal fatalities, and ensuring postpartum services for new mothers who are incarcerated. This year, Senator Funke Frommeyer and Representative Dietz championed Senate Bill 135, which requires the Cabinet of Health and Family Services to:

  • make information and an assessment tool on postpartum depression publicly available; and
  • develop and implement a panel tasked with improving prevention and treatment of perinatal mental health disorders.

Maternal health is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted solution. And while we’ve taken critical steps in the right direction – like, passing SB 135 which KYA will continue to monitor and support the implementation of – there are opportunities to further address disparities and improve outcomes. By continuing to prioritize the health and well-being of expectant and new moms, we’re also ensuring that their babies have the best chance to thrive.

If you’re interested in learning more about this issue and key recommendations, check out the Kentucky Department of Health’s Maternal Mortality Review Annual Report (2021) and University of Louisville’s Issue Brief: Maternal Mortality in Kentucky (2022).

Photo by Lawrence Crayton on Unsplash