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HHS Tackling Maternal Health Crisis With Tech, Data

The agency is supporting 16 research centers to improve maternal health nationwide.

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HHS Tackling Maternal Health Crisis With Tech, Data
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The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) created new efforts to develop technology and modernize data standards that would address the rising nationwide maternal mortality rate as part of a larger effort across the government to curb disparities in health care.

According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, the U.S. experienced its highest rates of maternal mortality in 2021. Deaths increased by 40% from the previous year.

The disparities prompted the Biden-Harris Administration to release a ”White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis” that outlines opportunities for technology to make a difference. The blueprint features five priorities to improve maternal care:

  • Increase access to and coverage of comprehensive high-quality maternal health services.

  • Ensure those giving birth are heard and are decision-makers in accountable systems of care.

  • Advance data collection, standardization, transparency, research and analysis.

  • Expand and diversify the perinatal workforce.

  • Strengthen economic and social supports for people before, during and after pregnancy.

With those goals in mind, HRSA has directed $90 million toward the effort, including creating 16 maternal health research centers within minority-serving institutions.

“We are laser-focused on reversing this crisis by expanding access to maternal care, growing the maternal care workforce, supporting moms experiencing maternal depression, and addressing the important social supports that are vital to safe pregnancies,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson in a Sept. 27 statement.

More than $24 million is committed to establishing “task forces with a focus on innovation and implementing strategies to improve maternal health service delivery.” Additionally, HHS is committing $10 million to data collection and efforts to “establish a new research network” for data analysis and innovation.

The agency is providing funding to establish four research centers across Texas, with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine receiving more than $2 million to open its first maternal health research center.

Dr. Candace Robledo, associate professor at the UTRGV School of Medicine and the principal investigator for the grant, said the institution has been working on initiatives to find funding for maternal health work.

“We’re just completely ecstatic that we can build that research capacity here. And then of course, we’re going to be trying to answer questions about how we can upskill community health workers to provide low integrated behavioral health care services to women in community settings. And so, we’re going to be generating science about how to do that effectively,” Robledo told GovCIO Media & Research.

Over the next five years, the centers will work to launch a program to address the specific needs of maternal health in their communities. The centers’ primary goal is to make maternal health more equitable across communities. Technology will be a driving factor.

“From our perspective, we’re going to be developing curriculums, we’re going to be developing intervention programs and finding ways that we can leverage technology to disseminate that information. I think it’s going to be a big connect down the road,” Robledo said.


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