HARRISBURG – The governor today signed into law legislation authored by Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh/Berks) to establish a Maternal Mortality Review Committee within the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
“Residents in my district who are members of the Pennsylvania Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) first approached me about this idea to form a committee dedicated to this issue,” said Mackenzie. “After doing some research and learning about the outstanding success other states have had after establishing Maternal Mortality Review committees, I started drafting the legislation. Anything we can do to improve the health and save lives of Pennsylvanians is a worthy cause I am committed to championing.”
Mackenzie noted that more women in the United States die from pregnancy complications than in any other developed country. Despite advances in medicine and medical technologies, the U.S. saw a 26 percent increase in the maternal mortality rate from 18.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000, to 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014.
A Maternal Mortality Review Committee will better identify pregnancy-related deaths, oversee the review of these deaths, recommend actions to help prevent future deaths and publish review results. This information will help clinicians and public health professionals better understand circumstances surrounding pregnancy-related deaths and enable them to take appropriate actions to prevent them. There will also be no cost associated with the committees since the Department of Health says it can absorb any administration costs within its existing funding.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) monitors maternal mortality on a national level, but there is no process for review in Pennsylvania. This new law will ensure more in-depth investigation of the deaths of expectant mothers and then use that information to improve health care for current and future expectant mothers.
Causes of death for expectant mothers include preventable conditions like preeclampsia and obstetric hemorrhage. Mental health conditions, including suicide and overdose, are also becoming the leading cause of maternal mortality in a growing number of states.
Currently, 32 states have maternal mortality review committees either in operation or in development.
According to a 2016 report from America’s Health Rankings, based on CDC National Vital Statistics System data, Pennsylvania ranks 21st in maternal mortality.
Mackenzie said California is an example of the success of implementing a maternal mortality review committee. The California Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review (CA-PAMR) identified cardiovascular disease, preeclampsia and obstetric hemorrhage as the leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths and published its findings in a statewide report and peer-reviewed journals. With data readily available about what was contributing to the risks of maternal mortality, Stanford University’s California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative put together a series of toolkits to help guide hospitals in limiting complications and responding to emergencies.
Since its inception, California’s maternal mortality rate declined more than 55 percent from 2006-2013. In addition, 120,000 early births were prevented from 2009-2014, with an increase of 8 percent of births making it to full term.
“I want to thank the members of the ACOG who brought this idea to my attention,” said Mackenzie. “I look forward to seeing the development of the committee and learning of its progress.”
Representative Ryan Mackenzie
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tricia Lehman