According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, severe maternal morbidity (SMM) increased almost 200% between 1993 and 2014, with significant disparities for women of color, uninsured and underinsured women, and women living in lower socioeconomic areas.
To better understand why and see how Ascension St. Joseph could respond, we identified perinatal visit care as a key determinant in maternal morbidity. Women who do not get prenatal care are at risk for delivering low birth weight babies, or delivering babies prematurely, and for having undiagnosed conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. They also do not receive regular screening tests, recommended vaccines or important education about self-care, healthy nutrition, exercise and what medications to avoid. We know once a woman has had seven or more prenatal care visits, the risk of her baby requiring a stay in a neonatal intensive care unit drops by more than half – falling from 29% to 12%
Our care team at Ascension St. Joseph tracked the reasons mothers miss these critical appointments and, with the assistance of a patient navigator and community health worker, help them overcome these barriers.
By identifying and responding to the social barriers women face to attend their appointments, and connecting them with resources, we have seen an increase in appointment attendance and healthier moms and babies as a result.
We continue to identify and respond to the barriers to care that women face and connect them with needed resources to help them achieve healthy outcomes.
Responding to needs with intention is core to who we are and this initiative allows us to engage directly with those in our community who are most vulnerable.