Harris leads first Cabinet meeting ever on maternal health care

·3 min read

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced new efforts and funding to improve the state of maternal health care in the U.S.

Vice President Harris convened a cabinet meeting on maternal health care, marking the first time an administration had held a meeting at the cabinet level to address the issue.

Harris pointed to the high rates of maternal mortality the U.S. has in comparison to other “so-called developed” countries.

She also noted statistics that show the disproportionately high death rates for racial minorities, as well as individuals living in rural areas.

Black women are three times more likely to die due in connection to childbirth than white women, while Native American women are twice as likely to die as white women. Rural women are one-and-a-half times more likely to die than women giving birth in U.S. urban areas, Harris noted.

“What we also know is that this is an issue that is not just about health care. It is about treating a woman as a whole human being. Understanding that if we are to expect and actually influence positive outcomes on this issue, we must see her then as a whole human being,” Harris said.

While the entirety of the meeting was not publicly aired, Harris stated that they would be discussing issues regarding housing, nutrition and transportation.

Maternal health has been one of the administration’s priority health issues since it assumed office. In December, Vice President Harris hosted the White House’s first Maternal Health Day of Action, during which she called for improvements in maternal health and criticized the U.S.’s relatively high maternal mortality rate.

The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday announced millions of dollars in funding to support maternal and infant health in eight states.

About $8 million of funding from last year’s coronavirus relief measure will go towards supporting health care in Arkansas, Iowa, Virginia and Oklahoma, and helping develop technology to address how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted pregnant individuals. According to the department, the funds will connect families with social supports, provide home visitors and address workplace issues.

Another $8 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be provided to Delaware, Massachusetts, Tennessee and West Virginia for similar purposes, with funds coming from the same coronavirus relief package.

“No parent should have to suffer without the necessary support to keep themselves and their families healthy,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

“As we recognize Black Maternal Health Week, we are strengthening our Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program to better connect families to the services they need, while making more funding available for states to develop and implement proven strategies that will help close maternal health disparities,” added Becerra.

Apart from the funds being provided to states, an additional $9 million will be made available by Health Resources and Service Administration through the State Maternal Health Innovation and Data Capacity Program to implement strategies to improve maternal health outcomes.

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