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State Officials Are Touring Virginia in Hopes of Cutting Down on Maternal Mortality Rates

Wellness GM / Flickr, Creative Commons: flickr.com/photos/130100316@N04/15728773073/

Virginia government officials are on the road this fall, listening to the concerns of women across Virginia about delivering babies. It’s an effort aimed at curing the crisis in maternal mortality for African-American women.

Last month, the Department of Health and Human Resources launched an unprecedented listening tour — an opportunity for state officials to hear firsthand from people across Virginia about why black women are two to three times more likely to die during pregnancy than their white counterparts.

Deputy Secretary Gena Berger says one of the themes that’s emerged so far is that different communities have different barriers. 

“For some communities their barrier is a lack of providers. For others, we’ve heard about a lack of investment in supporting organizations in the community,” says Berger.

The listening tour is an effort at gathering information to help improve maternal health outcomes.

Freddy Mejia at the Commonwealth Institute says the next step for lawmakers to take is action — like, for example, increasing the eligibility threshold for pregnant women for Medicaid and CHIP, which is currently capped at 205% of the federal poverty line. 

“Virginia can think about extending that coverage for people who earning up to 300% of the federal poverty line, making sure that more people who are pregnant get the care they need,” Mejia explains.

Six sessions have already happened and five more are scheduled for the rest of this month.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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