Healthbeat: New report shares findings about maternal and infant health

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A new report this week uncovers disturbing findings concerning maternal and infant health.

It’s critical of the number of premature births, infant mortality and infant morbidity in Pennsylvania and the rest of the U.S.

The 2020 March of Dimes Report Card finds that the U.S. is one of the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth. The nation rates an overall C- grade for preterm births. Dr. Rahul Gupta says Pennsylvania is only slightly better with a C, which is nothing to brag about.

“It was C+ last time. And the reason for that is that the rate was about 9.5 percent and has gone down to 9.9 percent. That’s something to be concerned of,” Dr. Rahul Gupta, Chief Medical & Health Officer, March of Dimes said.

In dollars, Pennsylvania’s preterm birth cost is higher than the national average. The report also shows a baby dies about every 12 hours in the commonwealth. Dr. Gupta says racial disparities fuel the tragic situation.

“The death rate for Black babies before reaching their first birthday is more than twice that for White babies,” Dr. Gupta said.

He blames limited health insurance and lack of conveniently located maternal health care in many rural and even some urban areas. But he points to another problem just as disturbing.

“We think that, you know, racism is a public health crisis in itself because there’s chronic inequities and unequal access to quality health contributes to higher rates of maternal and infant health complications,” Dr. Gupta said.

The report looks favorably on Pennsylvania for Medicaid expansion and providing coverage for women beyond 60 days post-partum. But Dr. Gupta says for here and across the country, there’s plenty of room for improvement outlined in a new campaign called #BlanketChange which urges lawmakers and leaders to prioritize the health of new moms and babies.

“This is our version of trying to make sure that we have a set of policies that we can mobilize people around to say and demand these actions that will help improve,” Dr. Gupta said.

Dr. Gupta says to effectively address maternal and infant health challenges, we must first address ethnic and racial disparities.

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