What can unions do about the ongoing maternal health crisis?

 

Maternal health in the United States is in crisis. According to CDC data, the number of maternal deaths in the U.S. shot up nearly 40% in 2021. Two years on, there has been no significant improvement.

This statistic cements America’s status as one of the most dangerous wealthy nations in which to be pregnant and give birth, so it’s clear that new measures need to be put into place.

Although Covid-19 has been suggested as a cause for the national uptick in maternal deaths, Black individuals saw a larger rise than white people, pointing to deep-rooted inequities in medical treatment and access to care — which, of course, the pandemic could have exacerbated.

As part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Maternal Health Day of Action, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced new actions to address the nation’s longstanding maternal health crisis.

Secretary Becerra co-hosted a roundtable with the Health Resources and Services Administrator Carole Johnson. The roundtable also included providers, advocacy organizations, and state and local leaders in Baltimore.

The following measures were announced:

  • HHS is awarding more than $103 million to support and expand access to maternal health.
  • A new task force will be formed to address maternal mental health conditions and co-occurring substance use disorders.

 

  • A national public education campaign, Talking Postpartum Depression, will be launched to combat the stigma around maternal mental health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 13.4% of U.S. women report PPD symptoms in the 12 months after childbirth. And research shows that one in eight women who have given birth over the past year experience symptoms of postpartum depression.

 

  • Almost $10 million is being invested in a new research network to study the disparities in maternal health outcomes and identify effective methods and strategies for addressing them.

 

The question is, can unions and trusts help support the mental health initiatives? The answer is, yes — by offering health benefits to members to support them on a long-term basis.

Access to healthcare as part of union member benefits means potential health issues — both physical and mental — can be detected and treated earlier, particularly as part of preventive care programs.

Unions can offer these benefits by partnering with an expert TPA who is experienced with labor and can offer guidance on the right health benefits to offer for maternal care. As a result, care is holistic and in line with the new initiatives that are set to change maternal healthcare in the U.S.