Today is International Women's Day, a celebration of women’s achievements and a way to raise awareness against bias and take action for equality.

This year’s theme is Choose to Challenge – and today, I challenge you to take some time to learn how you and your hospital and health system can improve women’s health before, during and after pregnancy.

Maternal deaths in the U.S. are on the rise. Each year, at least 700 women die due to complications in childbirth. For each instance of maternal mortality, approximately 100 women experience complication-related harm.

And, childbirth is more dangerous for communities of color who are disproportionately impacted by maternal mortality and morbidity. For example, Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women continue to experience more pregnancy related deaths and complications than white women.

The American Hospital Association offers three avenues for you and your OB teams to learn more and start taking action.

  1. Join the Better Maternal Outcomes Improvement Sprint. We invite you to participate in this free, six-week program focused on safely reducing primary cesarean births, which begins March 30. Sponsored by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the sprint equips participants with the knowledge, skills and quality improvement tools needed to reliably improve care delivery for all women and newborns. Participants will hear about real-world examples; they’ll also identify practices to reduce disparities and improve birth equity. Join the March 9 informational call to learn more and register for the sprint before it starts on March 30.
  2. Amplify the Voices of Mothers. On April 7, from 1-2 p.m. ET, join AHA for this virtual event featuring experts from national and community organizations, and hospitals, to discuss ways we can identify and address inequities in maternal care, empower women of color, and create solutions to improve maternal health equity.

    This event will take place in honor of National Minority Health Month and Black Maternal Health Week, which is observed April 11-17. See more details and register here.
  3. Learn how implicit bias training can improve care for women of color. Listen to this podcast in which I speak with Rahul Gupta, M.D., chief medical and health officer, senior vice president, and interim chief scientific officer for the March of Dimes, and AHA Chief Nursing Officer and American Organization for Nursing Leadership CEO Robyn Begley. 

    Together they share how the March of Dimes Breaking through Bias in Maternity Care training equips health care providers with important insights to recognize and remedy implicit bias, along with recommendations for improving patient-provider communication and building a culture of equity. According to Dr. Gupta, “this training can be a starting point to addressing structural racism.” And, as Robyn Begley points out, this training will “bring forth discussion among team members that would not have occurred otherwise, and encourage us to look at data more closely to see what we are doing and how we can provide better care to women of all colors.”

    If, after listening, you are interested in offering this training in your organization, you can access more information here.

To learn more about how hospitals are improving the health of mothers, visit AHA’s Better Health for Mothers and Babies page.

Priya Bathija, J.D., MHSA, serves as AHA’s vice president of strategic initiatives, which encompasses the association’s efforts on maternal and child health. 

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