Maternal Health Continues to be an Urgent Crisis in Harris County

Maternal Health Awareness Day is January 23 – A call to action to improve maternal health

January 23rd is Maternal Health Awareness Day, a day in which Harris County Public Health (HCPH) highlights the urgent maternal and infant health crisis in the county. HCPH reminds our birthing communities about the importance of knowing their risk and the many preventive steps that can be taken to ensure healthier outcomes.

Pregnancy and birth can carry serious health risks to both the mother and the baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 80% of maternal deaths are preventable. In Harris County, Black women are disproportionally impacted with a mortality rate of 65 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 29 deaths per 100,000 live births for all racial groups. However, HCPH is committed to improving health outcomes for families, particularly those in need of care most.

“In Harris County, we’re working to protect mothers and babies with communitywide investments in maternal health that include expanding health care access before pregnancy; addressing systemic racism within medical care; and increasing access to contraception, mental health care, and other vital resources.” said Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. “Black mothers and infants, compared to any other group, are at highest risk for serious health complications and death in Harris County. That’s why we’ve invested $7.7 million into a Maternal and Child Health Program to provide direct support to mothers and infants who are most at risk.”

The HCPH Maternal & Child Health Program was created to reduce the risks and barriers families face in establishing a healthy foundation. In 2022, HCPH hosted a two-day Black Maternal Health Summit where we worked to educate key stakeholders on critical topics to address the health inequities and disparities the black community faces. These are important steps HCPH has taken toward improving our maternal health statistics in Harris County and the Maternal & Child Health Program will continue to be at the forefront of our efforts.

Our team has partnered with Healthy Families America, an evidence-based holistic model, to help expecting and recently expanded families to improve their health outcomes through education, program assistance, and one on one counseling.

“Ensuring all families have adequate resources and education through a pregnancy and into the early childhood years is vital for better health outcomes,” said Harris County Public Health Executive Director Barbie Robinson. “Harris County Public Health has made it a mission to help hundreds of families with their pregnancy journey and our programs will provide more comprehensive and holistic approaches toward making sure families in need get the resources and care they deserve.”

It is also important to note the crucial role that ACCESS Harris County will play in our efforts to improve our county’s maternal health outcomes and support programming efforts. Through the ACCESS-Coordinated Care Teams, we will be able to connect participants with compounding needs to other service agencies across Harris County through a data-sharing system. Our coordinated care teams will be able to provide comprehensive case management, service needs and create an integrated care plan.

Understanding the U.S. maternal mortality crisis is the first step toward eliminating preventable maternal deaths. Harris County supports and recognizes the need for further investments communitywide in efforts to improve maternal health, eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes, and promote respectful and equitable maternity care practices.

Harris County Public Health’s wellness clinics provide consultations, health screenings, and referrals to eligible Harris County residents. To see if you qualify, call 832-927-7350 for scheduling and consultation.