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ACOG: Standardized National Maternal Mortality Data by NCHS Is Critical Step in Eliminating Preventable Maternal Deaths and Disparities in Outcomes

January 30, 2020

Washington, D.C. — Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, FACOG, CEO of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), released the following statement regarding the U.S. maternal mortality data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS):

“Data from the NCHS reflects the scale of the public health challenge we face. Maternal mortality is a complex problem with disparities in outcomes stemming from many factors, including access to care, standardization of care, bias, and racism. Access to reliable, consistent data year after year is critical to establishing benchmarks, setting goals, and measuring progress towards improving outcomes.

“The NCHS, in partnership with states, has attempted to improve the accuracy of the data collected from U.S. death certificates by including the standardized pregnancy status checkbox. While this step is important, it is also important to recognize that misclassification of pregnancy status and other challenges with vital statistics data still exist. Continued improvement in tracking all data events—including accounting for maternal deaths up to 12 months postpartum and deaths from suicide and substance use disorder—is still needed. Vital statistics are critically important, but we must also prioritize our investment in state maternal mortality review committees. Maternal mortality review committees have access to multiple sources of information that aid in identifying, characterizing, and providing a deeper understanding of the circumstances surrounding each death. 

“The NCHS data confirmed what we have known from other data sources: the rate of maternal deaths for non-Hispanic black women is substantially higher than the rates for non-Hispanic white women. This disparity, as well as other outcome disparities in health care, must be eliminated. Continued efforts to improve the standardization of data and review processes related to U.S. maternal mortality are a necessary step to achieving the goal of eliminating disparities and preventable maternal mortality.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of more than 58,000 members, ACOG strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. www.acog.org

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
409 12th Street SW, Washington, DC  20024-2188
Mailing Address: PO Box 96920, Washington, DC 20024-9998