Pennsylvania shines spotlight on maternal mortality rates


Wednesday was the first Maternal Health Awareness Day in Pennsylvania.

Government officials and healthcare providers talked about the issue and what's being done about it locally Wednesday afternoon.

According to several studies, there are more maternal deaths in the United States than in the rest of the developed world.

"This is the United States of America. It's unacceptable," Lehigh Valley Health Network cardiologist Dr. Amy Ahnert said.

Pennsylvania currently has the 21st highest maternal mortality rate in the nation.

"The good news is we think a lot of this can be prevented," Ahnert said.

Government officials and healthcare providers across the country and commonwealth have already begun tackling the issue.

President Trump recently signed national legislation aimed at reducing maternal mortality.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf not only signed a bill to do the same but created the Maternal Mortality Review Committee to protect mothers.

Lehigh and Berks Republican Representative Ryan Mackenzie sponsored the bill.

"This is one of the examples where government is working well," Mackenzie said.

Mackenzie said when he was campaigning, he met a man who had lost his wife during pregnancy and it really hit home.

"We shared an embrace. We hugged and he said that he felt if something like this had been in place before, it gave him hope that maybe his wife would've still been with him," Mackenzie said.

Lehigh Valley Health Network hosted Wednesday's event, and has taken steps of its own to manage maternal health.

"We need to start some place and I think the bottom is we first need to start with education and outreach. We need to educate people. We need to increase maternal health awareness even before pregnancy," Ahnert said.

Mackenzie said if we can avoid one maternal mortality death, the government's and the healthcare industry's work will be worthwhile.

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