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Public Health Officials Begin Survey To Address Maternal Health Disparities

The Iowa Department of Public Health is asking Iowans to complete a survey as a way to address disparities in maternal health within the state. The department encourages anyone who lives or works in Iowa and has an interest in improving mental health to answer its questions.

The Iowa Department of Public Health is asking people who live and/or work in Iowa to fill out a survey to help improve the state’s maternal health strategic plan.

According to the division director for health promotion and disease prevention at the IDPH, Nalo Johnson, the survey allows people to tell the state where it’s doing well, but also where there are still gaps in the public health system.

"It gives us the opportunity to really be open to hearing what folks have to say about their experiences or engagement with our public health maternal health programs,“ Johnson said. "We obviously see differences between various racial and ethnic populations within the state. So our goal really is to be able to take that health disparities reducing approach to our maternal health efforts to ensure that every Iowan have access to a safe birth."

IDPH's report "Vital Statistics of Iowa" shows a steady increase in maternal death, starting from 1989 to 2019. It defines maternal death as any death "due to complications of pregnancy, labor, delivery, or puerperium."

Although the state still considers maternal death a rarity, Black, Asian and/or Hispanic women in the state are considered at higher risk for maternal death. They are at a six-fold, four-fold and almost 2-fold higher risk, respectively, to die compared to white women.

"A focus on maternal health needs has been a part of the broader conversation that the state's been having for the past few years. And we're wanting to have a more comprehensive look and review about our public health maternal health programs through establishing this strategic plan process," Johnson explained.

The outreach effort is funded in part by a State Maternal Health Innovation Program grant the state received from the Health Resources & Services Administration. Iowa is one of nine states to receive the grant to address disparities in maternal health.

“Also then looking at what programs or experiences may be working well for them regarding their maternal health experience, and where there may be areas for innovation that or ideas that we can be considering from a programmatic or a policy standpoint," Johnson added.

Access to the online survey will close on June 11. All responses will be kept anonymous.

IDPH will also conduct targeted focus groups and utilize other partnerships with care providers to continue its efforts to improve its maternal health strategy.