Georgia may tout that highly contentious “number one state for business” rating, but continues to rank at the bottom of the nation on measures of maternal and infant health.
Georgia Health News reports that Georgia performs poorly on state rankings of premature births, low-birth weight babies, infant mortality and maternal mortality, much to the concern of the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.
According to a new report the coalition released, there is a lot of inadequate or nonexistent care that impacts the health outcomes of mothers and babies from before pregnancy to after birth.
For instance, Georgia has a higher than average rate of unintended pregnancies — 60 percent versus a national average of 45 percent. If folks are not planning pregnancies, then they are less able to prepare their lives and their bodies for carrying a pregnancy to term. This can mean having financial and job stability on the one hand, and making sure chronic health conditions are properly managed and unhealthy habits have been minimized on the other hand. All which help foster healthy pregnancies.
The report also highlights barriers to healthy pregnancies that are persistent in this state, like lack of access to adequate prenatal care, especially in rural areas where there is a shortage of OB/GYNs.
The list of types of care the state is lacking in — all important to achieving healthy mothers, healthy pregnancies and healthy babies — only grows from there: dental care, breastfeeding support, immunizations, postpartum visits.
It’s not surprising then, that, according to the report, “Georgia ranks 43rd (2014) for premature births, 47th (2014) for low birthweight babies, 45th (2014) for infant mortality and 49th (2006) for maternal mortality.”
The report “presents a clear picture and understanding of the health of women and infants in our state and provides strategies to address challenges and promote successful programs through Public Health, the health care community, policymakers and the community at large,” Nancy Nydam, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Public Health, told GHN.
Quite dishearteningly, the data also shows that significant racial disparities exist. As with breast cancer, black women in Georgia are more likely than their white counterparts to die as a result of complications from pregnancy or labor. Three times as many black women as white women died in Georgia in 2012 because of what are often preventable complications stemming from a pregnancy.
Last year, Emory University actually undertook a project to study what drives the racial disparities in infant and maternal health. They are attempting to dive deeply into how the biological, social, behavioral and environmental factors impact the health of pregnancies for black women because such significant disparities exist. However those results won’t be ready for years, as the study is still analyzing the data they’ve collected.
“Health disparities start prenatally or even preconceptually,”said nursing researcher Anne Dunlop MD MPH.
Many folks don’t realize this, but giving birth is actually way more risky than having an abortion. Pregnant women are fifteen times more likely to die as a result of giving birth than undergoing an abortion procedure, and high-risk pregnancies come with risks of developing life-threatening illnesses like eclampsia, pre-eclampsia or sepsis.
The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition will be taking the concerns from their report to the Capitol next legislative session, hoping to improve women’s access to medical providers, particularly for low-income women, and make dental health and vaccinations top policy goals. Hopefully we’ll actually see some movement on these important issues.