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'Momnibus' Bill In Congress Would Provide Millions To Address US Maternal Mortality Rate, Racial Disparity

ROOSEVELT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The U.S. is the only developed country in the world where the maternal mortality rate is rising, with a clear racial disparity.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Monday, there's now an effort in Congress to address this issue.

It's a joyous time for soon-to-be moms. Prenatal visits and after care are in place at the Roosevelt Family Health Center.

But that's not the case for a shocking number of American women, with the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world -- 700 each year.

If you're Black, you're nearly three times more likely to die -- 44 deaths per 100,000.

"Often time these moms bleed out, sometimes their pain isn't taken seriously. We've heard words from doctors that don't take Black women's pain the same as white women's pain," said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Sen. Gillibrand is pushing for a major increase in funding to address what she calls an outrage.

"Treatment can be different. The options that are given in terms of pain relief, the warnings and tests that are given," said Dr. Martine Hackett, an associate professor of public health at Hofstra University.

That can have a dramatic impact on lives.

Gillibrand backs initiatives together knows at the "Momnibus" bill, with millions of dollars for:

  • training to reduce implicit bias in maternal health,
  • integrative health care for moms before and after birth,
  • a maternal mental health hotline, and
  • training for maternal mental health conditions.

"Mothers that are at higher risk because of the socioeconomic status, because of the lack of housing, the lack of financial support," said Dr. Nellie Taylor Walthrust of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center.

Economics play a role, but even Black women in high-income brackets are more likely to die. Serena Williams and Beyoncé helped ignite alarm with their own pregnancies.

Experts say better patient education is also needed.

"I don't think patients are aware enough of their own health care needs," said Dr. Tarika James, chief medical officer at L.I. Family Health Centers.

Advocates of the "Momnibus" bill call it a crisis because the numbers are not getting better.

In fact, the pandemic has made it worse. A CDC study found two out of three of these tragic deaths are preventable.

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