October 08, 2019

Duckworth Discusses Maternal Mortality Rate at Panel with March of Dimes, Medela


[CHICAGO, IL] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) hosted a panel today on rising maternal and infant mortality rates with Medela and March of Dimes. Earlier this year, Duckworth introduced the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA) Act with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) to help reduce America’s rising maternal and infant mortality rate, especially among mothers and babies of color who are significantly more likely to die during or shortly after pregnancy. Photos from today’s event are available here.

“It is absolutely unconscionable that, since I gave birth to my daughter Maile, hundreds of expectant and new moms are estimated to have died from preventable causes in this country,” Duckworth said.  “No more women should die from preventable causes on what should be the most special day of their lives, and I’m proud to be working with organizations like March of Dimes and Medela to address our nation’s growing maternal mortality crisis.”

“The work of the department and our coalition partners has been extremely successful and March of Dimes is proud to advocate for policies that will help reduce and ultimately eliminate infant and maternal mortality,” said Matt Keppler, Regional Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs, March of Dimes. “For instance, extending postpartum Medicaid coverage was a top recommendation of the Illinois Maternal Mortality Review Committee to address maternal mortality, resulting in a law being passed earlier this year to extend full Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months for mothers whose income is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This makes Illinois the first state in the nation to pass a law to extend postpartum healthcare coverage in a state that has already expanded Medicaid. Continuing this momentum is crucial.”

“We are honored to host today’s discussion to encourage awareness of this important issue impacting families around Chicago,” said Melissa Gonzales, executive vice president of Medela Americas. “At Medela, it is our view that breast milk feeding and access to breast milk in critical care situations is only a small part of the story that can make a big difference in the lives of families, the long-term well-being of babies, and our community.   The infant mortality rate for our community is unacceptable and together we can do better. It is bad for our community, it is bad for our families, and it is bad for our businesses. We believe that discussions like these create awareness that energizes a commitment to pursue low cost, high value interventions that can turn this tragic loss around. We are so thankful to Senator Duckworth and our partners at the March of Dimes and the University of Illinois at Chicago for supporting this event.”

Duckworth was joined on the panel with Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Aloka L. Patel, M.D., Maura Quinla, M.D., MPH, Paula P. Meier, PhD, RN and Jenny Thomas, M.D., MPH, IBCLC, FAAP, FABM.

The United States is one of only 13 countries in the world where the maternal mortality rate is worse now that it was 25 years ago. The shocking statistics cut across geography, education level, income, and socio-economic status. However, women and babies of color die at much higher rates than white mothers. Nationally, African American mothers die at 3-4 times the rate of white mothers, and black babies are twice as likely to die as white babies. Currently, the United States ranks 32nd out of the 35 wealthiest nations when it comes to infant mortality.

Maternal and infant mortality is especially important to Illinois families. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), on average, 73 Illinois mothers die every year, with more than 70 percent of these deaths being deemed preventable. While Illinois’ maternal mortality rate is slightly lower than the national average, the disparity of black mothers dying is nearly double the national disparity. According to the IDPH, black mothers in Illinois die at 600 percent the rate of their white counterparts.