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Area Advocates For Safe Childbirth Applaud Recent Grants

By Cherri Gregg


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The number of women dying in the US because of complications related to childbirth has nearly doubled in the last twenty years.  In Camden, NJ, 30 women die out of every 100,000 births because of pregnancy and childbirth complications.  In Philadelphia,  the rate is 18.

Now, two area nonprofit groups have launched programs to help find new ways to tackle those statistics.

"It's unacceptable in this day and age that women are dying from pregnancy and childbirth in the US," says
Dr. Priya Agrawal (in center of photo), executive director of Merck for Mothers, a ten-year, $500-million initiative focused on reducing maternal death globally.

The organization will pump $6 million into US-based programs.

The Philadelphia-based Maternity Care Coalition and the Camden Coalition of Health Care Providers each received $150,000 exploratory grants from Merck for Mothers to launch pilot programs.

"In both Camden and in Philadelphia, there is a huge increase in diabetes, high blood presures, and obesity, and a really complicated health care system," says Agrawal.

"We are really excited-- this is the first time in the 25 years I've worked with Maternity Care Coalition that anyone is looking at the health outcomes of the mother," said Joanne Fischer, executive director (at left in photo).

She says Maternity Care Coalition used the money to expand its Safe Start Mom Mobile program, to bring health care to about 30 additional mothers in North Philadelphia.

"We'll be able to help mothers manage their chronic health conditions," says Fischer.  "We'll be able to have a community doula who is with the woman while she gives birth."

The group will also send motivational text messages to help keep moms on track.

The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers will use its funds to redesign health care access for mothers in Camden.

"There are a lot of barriers to care," says Len Terranova, director of planning and performance improvement (at right in photo).  "More women in Camden per 100,000 are dying than in other places.  Women in Camden are engaging the prenatal system less than other women in New Jersey, and women are getting fewer prenatal visits by far."

Terranova says his organization will review due dates and engage the mothers, health care providers, and other stakeholders in the system to help make access to doctors easier for moms-to-be.

Both exploratory programs are set to last nine months, with a goal of employing the programs in other cities.


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