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As Iowa’s maternal death rates rise, UIHC receives $10-million grant to address growing health crisis

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) — Maternal death rates for Iowa mothers have doubled in a three year period from 2015 to 2018 and now the University of Iowa is working on a five-year project to address this crisis.

Maternal death rates in the United States are some of the highest of any developed nation and that number is rising.

From 2015 to 2018 death rates among Iowa mothers rose from 20 deaths a year to 39. Now, Iowa is one of 9 states to receive a five-year, $10 million grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) to improve maternal health outcomes in the state.

Stephen Hunter, MD, Ph.D., UI professor of obstetrics and gynecology and vice-chair for obstetrics and co-director of the Iowa Statewide Perinatal Care Program, is leading the charge to better understand the factors behind these rising death rates.

Dr. Hunter kicked off a discussion regarding plans to identify, identify, analyze and address major issues affecting Maternal health during a recent OB summit put on by the Iowa Department of Public Health, according to a press release.

In June, Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office also organized a maternal health round-table to address this growing issue.

According to Dr. Hunter, a number of factors are leading to this crisis in maternal death rates. Those include increasing maternal age, higher levels of obesity and related health complications, as well as societal problems such as substance abuse and mental health.

“These are national problems, but in rural states like Iowa, access to care is really becoming a crisis,” Hunter says. “The first year of the grant will involve collecting and analyzing data to identify primary problems and develop a ‘game plan’ to address those issues.”

However, the lack of health care assess is also a factor. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Iowa has seen more than 30 labor and delivery units in critical access hospitals close since the year 2000.

Full story tonight on KWWL News at 6 p.m. 

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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