ERC Health Committee discusses approaches to improving maternal health

August 23, 2019

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced grants to states, including six ERC members, to support an initiative to help reduce the shocking rate of maternal mortality in the United States. Maternal health was a major focus of the ERC Health Committee at the 2019  Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh.

Maternal mortality rates in the United States have been increasing at the same time that they have decreased in similarly-situated industrialized nations. According to a study in The Lancet, the maternal mortality rate in the United States (26.4 deaths per 100,000 live births) was nearly three times higher than Britain and seven times higher than Denmark or Finland in 2015. The CDC reported that about 700 women in the United States die from pregnancy-related complications each year, and alarmingly, 60 percent of these deaths could have been prevented. These statistics as well as the experiences of several high-profile women have forced policymakers to address this crisis, particularly among communities of color and women in rural communities.

One promising tool in this effort are state-based maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs): although not necessarily a new concept, MMRCs are made up of experts to investigate and review individual maternal deaths and then make recommendations and actionable guidelines for community providers to prevent such tragedies. One of the most successful MMRCs is the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, an initiative begun in 2006 that helped California reduce its maternal mortality rates to a historic low today. In 2018, Congress passed the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which created a grant program at the CDC to encourage states to adopt MMRCs or revitalize existing ones.

The CDC recently completed its first round of funding with 25 states — including ERC members Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania — receiving an award. Review to Action, a partnership among the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs and the CDC, also released a map tracking which states have adopted a MMRC, and according to this research, only Maine, Vermont, and Rhode Island do not have a MMRC among ERC states.

CSG/ERC will continue to follow this important issue and provide updates on additional recommendations. Review to Action also has an informative report on best practices and case studies on several MMRCs.

According to a USA Today analysis of available maternal mortality data for 2016, Louisiana (58.1 per 100,000 births) has the highest maternal mortality rate and California (4.0 per 100,000 births) has the lowest in the United States. The following are the available results for ERC states.


State Ranking
(maternal deaths per 100,000 births)
Connecticut #43 (10.5)
Delaware unavailable
Maine #28 (18.9)
Maryland #23 (19.7)
Massachusetts #45 (8.4)
New Hampshire unavailable
New Jersey #5 (36.2)
New York #25 (19.2)
Pennsylvania #31 (18.6)
Rhode Island #15 (22.1)
Vermont unavailable




StateRankingMaternal deaths per 100,000 live births
New Hampshireunavailableunavailable
New Jersey536.2
New York2519.2
Rhode Island1522.1
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