Goals include preventing pregnancy complications and death, and reducing disparities in health care

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced today it will receive a 5-year, $1.8 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to decrease pregnancy complications, reduce maternal deaths, and reduce disparities in Wisconsin through an increased investment in the Wisconsin Maternal Mortality Review Team (MMRT).

“Looking closely at maternal deaths and complications during and after pregnancy helps us better understand how to improve outcomes for women and children in the future,” said Jeanne Ayers, State Health Officer and Division of Public Health Administrator. “This grant allows us to zero in on new strategies that can make a difference for the health and well-being of women, their children, and their communities.”

The MMRT, which includes local public health departments, the Wisconsin Perinatal Quality Collaborative, Wisconsin Medicaid, and the Wisconsin section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, meets quarterly to review cases of maternal death and recommends prevention strategies. The review process is key to understanding why women die during pregnancy, childbirth, and during the year after pregnancy.

The CDC grant will help the MMRT expand its work, review  reports faster and spend more time developing recommendations to improve pregnancy outcomes and decrease disparities in rates of pregnancy complications and maternal death. The rate of severe pregnancy complications is 50% higher for African American, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian women than for White women. African American women in Wisconsin die of pregnancy-related causes at five times the rate of White women.

Many of the same factors that affect maternal mortality also influence birth outcomes and infant health. DHS houses several initiatives to improve the health and well-being of pregnant women, children, and youth, including:

  • The Title V-funded Maternal and Child Health Program works with partners and local health departments to improve the health and well-being of mothers, infants, children, and youth, including children and youth with special health care needs, and their families.
  • The Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, providing nutrition education, breastfeeding education and support, supplemental nutritious foods, and referrals to other health and nutrition services for eligible families.
  • Prenatal Care Coordination, a Medicaid/BadgerCare Plus benefit that helps pregnant women get the support and services they need to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
  • The Minority Health Program works to provide leadership for policies that impact the health of communities of color in Wisconsin, and supports the efforts of programs and organizations working to improve the health of communities of color, including those focused on the health of pregnant women, infants, and children.

Governor Evers has focused attention on improving maternal, infant, and child health and preventing infant mortality in Wisconsin with his “Healthy Babies, Healthy Women” initiative, announced earlier this year, and his executive order on preventing child lead poisoningn, which emphasized state agency coordination of lead poisoning prevention efforts.