State health department receives CDC funding for continued work on preventing maternal deaths

DENVER: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a grant award of $375,000 per year for five years to prevent maternal deaths in the state by funding Colorado’s Maternal Mortality Prevention Program. A maternal death is defined as any death of a pregnant or postpartum person that takes place during the 21-month period of pregnancy and one year after giving birth.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jared Polis signed the Maternal Mortality Prevention Act to formalize and fund the Maternal Mortality Review Committee, enabling the department to be eligible to apply for the CDC funding. 

“The Preventing Maternal Deaths grant will allow us to build on the momentum of the Maternal Mortality Prevention Act to reduce the number of maternal deaths in Colorado and improve health outcomes through funding for a trifecta of opportunities: community-led solutions, clinical quality improvement, and public health programs,” said Shivani Bhatia, maternal health coordinator and project director for the grant. “Our aim is to achieve health equity by addressing the social and structural determinants of health to reduce disparities in maternal deaths.”

Maternal deaths are more common among pregnant and postpartum people who live in rural areas, experience poverty, or are black and disproportionately experience the effects of systemic racism. The department is committed to systematically addressing health equity and environmental justice through the administration of its programs. In 1993, the department began convening the multidisciplinary committee, which has grown in scope since to review all maternal deaths. 

Although Colorado’s maternal mortality rate is relatively low, it has increased over the last decade. And nearly 80% of the state’s maternal deaths are preventable at one of a variety of levels, including at the facility, structural, or systemic levels. Between 2008 and 2013, deaths directly related to pregnancy made up 15% of all maternal deaths. The top causes of these deaths are cardiovascular conditions, hemorrhage, infection, and mental and behavioral health conditions related to pregnancy and postpartum. 

The top causes of maternal deaths not directly related to pregnancy are mental and behavioral health conditions unrelated to pregnancy or postpartum, motor vehicle crashes, and homicide.

As a requirement of the new law, the committee’s membership is expanding to include additional representation from diverse communities and a variety of clinical, forensic, psychosocial, and public health specializations. Prospective members must submit the Maternal Mortality Review Committee application by Aug. 15. The department is encouraging submissions from applicants who represent communities that are diverse with regard to race, ethnicity, immigration status, English proficiency, income, wealth, and geographic region of the state, as well as those who are affected by higher rates of maternal mortality and a lack of access to the full scope of maternity care health services. Reach out to with questions.



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