ARKANSAS (KNWA/FOX24) – Arkansas is one of the worst states in the country when it comes to maternal mortality, but new federal funding could help change that.
“Arkansas ranks fifth worst in maternal mortality in the United States,” said Dr. Nirvana Manning, chair and associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Dr. Manning said the rural nature of Arkansas contributes to the problems that lead to the state’s high maternal mortality rate.
“Within these pockets, there’s usually higher poverty, there’s usually lower education,” she said.
However, $5 million in HERSA grant funding from the US Department of Health could make some big changes to that. Dr. Manning said UAMS and the Arkansas Department of Health will partner to put that money to use.
“We want to reach out in a few different ways, addressing maternal health, morbidity, mortality and equitable access across our state,” she said.
Dr. Creshelle Nash is the Director of Health Equity and Public Programs for Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield. She hopes the money will help black women.
“African-American and Hispanic women are two to three times more likely to die in childbirth than other women than white women in the state of Arkansas,” she said.
Data from the Arkansas Maternal Mortality Review Committee found that black, non-Hispanic women accounted for 19% of all births in 2018 and 37% of pregnancy-related deaths.
“I’m committed to quality care, or not just our members, the people who have our health insurance plan, but the community at large, and we have to remain committed to that,” she said.
She wants to see a well-trained workforce, a diverse workforce, to address quality of care and make sure people feel comfortable seeking care from our health systems.
Dr. Manning said they want to break down access barriers by establishing centers across the state and using mobile units. She said they are also looking to launch an online women’s health dashboard.
“We’re going to spend significant time on breastfeeding, significant time on nutrition, on car seat safety, on health,” she said.
“Communities must be engaged in every step of the process to determine what the problem is and to determine what the solution is,” said Dr. Nash.
Dr. Manning said the grant will provide $1 million a year for the next five years and that they will most likely start having meetings about using the funds in October.
Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield is hosting a free workshop Thursday in Rogers called “Take Good Care: Mom and Baby.” It will be at the Arkansas Blue Welcome Center from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. They will have experts on hand to provide important information for expectant mothers and women trying to conceive.
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