A goal to eliminate the racial disparity in the maternal mortality rate in Virginia by 2025 recently was announced by Gov. Ralph Northam.
In Virginia, the maternal mortality rate for black women is over two times as high as white women, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Northam outlined the goal during a ceremonial bill signing of House Bill 2546, which codifies the Maternal Mortality Review Team in Virginia, and House Bill 2613, which adds perinatal anxiety to the list of information providers must give patients.
“A critical component of improving maternal health outcomes is the elimination of the racial disparity we are seeing in Virginia and across the nation,” Northam said. “This is a worthy goal that is perfectly within reach, and I am directing leaders in my administration and in the healthcare and human services community to develop strategies to get us there by 2025.”
“I am proud we are making a bold commitment to improving maternal health in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, M.D. “I look forward to collaboration across a variety of sectors to ensure that women in Virginia have access to high quality care and services before, during, and after pregnancy.”
Northam is challenging leaders in his administration, as well as private and non-profit sectors to join in developing strategies to achieve this critical goal. As such, he has directed the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) and the Department of Social Services (DSS) to implement a process for expediting enrollment for pregnant women eligible for Medicaid.
Additionally, he has instructed relevant state agencies to implement a framework for scaling home visiting that was recently endorsed by the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet. Northam has also directed the Department of Health Professions and the Virginia Department of Health to explore ways to increase implicit bias and cultural competency training for healthcare professionals. Finally, Northam is directing all applicable executive branch agencies to provide recommendations for improving maternal health.
The Northam administration and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association are also committed to form a collaborative with 10 Virginia hospitals and their ambulatory providers to implement evidence-based, culturally sensitive training, education, and best practices. The Virginia Department of Health will support hospitals with data collection, onboarding, coaching, and technical assistance.