January 23rd was Maternal Health Awareness Day, which served as a day that Harris County Public Health (HCPH) highlighted the urgent maternal and infant health crisis in Harris County. It also was a day to highlight the things that Harris County is doing to combat that crisis.
HCPH continues to remind families about the importance of knowing their risk and the many preventive steps that can be taken to ensure healthier outcomes.
Pregnancy and birth can carry serious health risks to both the mother and the baby.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 80% of maternal deaths are preventable. Over the past several years, there has been an alarming increase in maternal mortality nationwide and in Texas.
According to the most recent data released by the state, Texas has experienced a 25% increase in severe medical complications from pregnancy and birth between 2018 and 2020. With one of the highest rates of maternal morbidity among metropolitan areas in the United States, Harris County is at the center of this crisis. Black women are disproportionally impacted with 65 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 29 deaths per 100,000 live births for all groups in Harris County.
HCPH has expressed their commitment to improving health outcomes for families, particularly those in most need of care.
“The county is working to protect mothers and babies through communitywide investments in maternal health that include expanding health care access before pregnancy; addressing systemic racism within medical care; and increasing access to vital services and resources,” said Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis. “Black mothers and infants, compared to any other group, are at highest risk for serious health complications and death in Harris County. That’s why we’ve invested $7.7 million into a Maternal and Child Health Program to provide direct support to mothers and infants who are most at risk.”
The HCPH Maternal and Child Health Program was established to reduce the risks and barriers families face in creating a health foundation. Their team has partnered with Healthy Families America, an evidence-based holistic model, to help expecting and recently expanded families improve their health outcomes through education, program assistance, and one-on-one counseling. Over the last couple of years, HCPH has taken important steps toward improving these statistics and HCPH’s Maternal & Child Health Program is at the forefront of its efforts.
“Ensuring all families have adequate resources and education throughout a pregnancy and into the early childhood years is vital for better health outcomes,” said Harris County Public Health Executive Director Barbie Robinson. “Harris County Public Health has made it a mission to help hundreds of families with their pregnancy journey and our programs will provide more comprehensive and holistic approaches toward making sure families in need get the resources and care they deserve.”
It is also important to note the crucial role that ACCESS Harris County plays in the efforts to improve Harris County’s maternal health outcomes and support programming efforts. Through the ACCESS-Coordinated Care Teams, they will be able to connect participants with compounding needs to other service agencies across Harris County through a data-sharing system. Their coordinated care teams will be able to provide comprehensive case management, service needs and create an integrated care plan.
Understanding the U.S. maternal mortality crisis is the first step toward eliminating preventable maternal deaths. Harris County supports and recognizes the need for further investments communitywide in efforts to improve maternal health, eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes, and promote respectful and equitable maternity care practices.
Harris County Public Health’s wellness clinics provide consultations, health screenings, and referrals to eligible Harris County residents.
To see if you qualify, call 832-927-7350 for scheduling and consultation.