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IDPH: Maternal mortality remains high among Black Illinoisans

26 Oct 2023 3:08 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

Black Illinois women continue to die at disparately higher rates from medical causes, while substance use disorder is the leading cause of pregnancy-related death, according to a state report released this week. [Health News Illinois]

The Department of Public Health's study, which looked at deaths between 2018 and 2020, found that Black women are twice as likely to die from any pregnancy-related condition and three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related medical conditions as white women.

The data are similar to what the agency reported in 2021.

“This third edition of the maternal morbidity and mortality report underscores that Illinois still has a long way to go towards ensuring that all Illinoisans can have a safe and healthy pregnancy,” said department Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “We continue to see unacceptable inequities in maternal mortality for Black women and women with lower socioeconomic status.”

Nearly one-third of all pregnancy-related deaths were tied to substance use disorder. Other common causes of death were cardiac and coronary conditions, pre-existing chronic medical conditions and sepsis.

The report offers the first glimpse of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal mortality. There were 110 deaths reported in 2020, compared to 70 in 2019 and 83 in 2018.

The Maternal Mortality Review Committees, which helped to compile the report, determined that 91 percent of pregnancy-related deaths were potentially preventable due to clinical, system, social, community or patient factors.

“We need to continue to emphasize that our healthcare systems provide respectful, patient-centered care for all patients,” said Dr. Robin Jones, chair of the committees and a Rush University Medical Center OB-GYN. “Our nation will not have a health system that promotes health equity and delivers quality outcomes until we better understand the role that racism plays in maternal mortality and take action to address it.”

In recent years, state officials have worked to improve maternal health outcomes by extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum, reimbursing services provided by doulas and home visiting programs, and expanding postpartum visits and services like family planning coverage.

 “I encourage all of our partners to come together to achieve the goal of making Illinois the healthiest state to give birth,” Vohra said. 


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