Saturday, April 20, 2024

Report: Virginia Women’s Health Stagnates Despite Improvements

A 2023 March of Dimes report finds almost 14.8% of women in Virginia don’t have a birthing hospital within 30 minutes of where they live, compared with 9.7% of women nationwide. (Adobe Stock)

WASHINGTON — Progress in bolstering women’s health in Virginia has stagnated, according to a new report.

Virginia ranks 14th among the states in the latest America’s Health Rankings report on the Health of Women and Children. The report said clinical care and health behaviors have improved, but cited modest declines in health outcomes. Also, maternal mortality in Virginia increased to almost 27% in the last year.

Virginia Commonwealth University recently was awarded more than $1.5 million for maternal health innovation. Shannon Pursell, senior director of the Virginia Neonatal Perinatal Collaborative, described how that money can be spent.

“What we are going to do with this,” she said, “is really provide that connection within communities, to and for women and their families, to ensure that they get connected to services.”

Overall, she said, she wants to see better partnerships between healthcare providers and specialized services for maternal health. The report also found fewer women of childbearing age in Virginia are smoking, but more are being diagnosed with depression.

Across the United States, maternal mortality increased 29% between 2014 and 2021. The pandemic only added to this, as more than 500 maternal deaths between 2020 and 2021 were related to COVID-19.

Dr. Lisa Saul, national medical director at UnitedHealthcare, said a healthy pregnancy boils down to healthcare access.

“We know that access to obstetric care, access to hospitals, is something that is an issue in our country,” she said, “and we know about maternity care ‘deserts,’ where sometimes women might have to travel for two hours to not only see their physician or their OB provider.”

The March of Dimes found that 8% of counties in the United States have seen shifting maternity-care access in the last few years. At least 94 counties increased access while 153 saw less access to care.

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