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News Release

Access to maternal care is a health equity crisis, ECRI affirms in public comment

The U.S. maternal mortality rate is ranked the world’s worst among affluent countries – with women of color disproportionately harmed at alarming rates. About 1,200 patients in the U.S. die annually and another 50,000 suffer pregnancy-related complications or severe morbidity.

The National Advisory Council (NAC) for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) convened March 14 with a period of public comments which featured insights from ECRI, a national patient safety organization focused on reducing preventable harm. The NAC advises the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Agency.

Cara Wzorek, program manager of ECRI’s Clinical Risk Management Program, commented on the lack of quality, accessible maternal and perinatal care, calling it a critical health equity issue causing alarming rates of fatalities of mothers and babies.

“We work with the Health Resources and Services Administration to provide resources, education, and tools on maternal safety to all federally qualified health centers nationwide,” said Wzorek. “About 2.2 million women of reproductive age in the U.S. live in maternity care deserts — which are areas with no hospitals providing obstetric care, no birth centers, no obstetrics-gynecology providers, and no certified nurse midwives. FQHCs and other community health centers, particularly those in remote areas, are a key aspect in improving access to high-quality care for medically underserved patients.”

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“Patients who don’t have access to a hospital or emergency department – and those who don’t want to go due to the cost or their immigration status – end up seeking urgent care for complications in community health centers or free clinics,” added Wzorek. “Or, worse, with nowhere else to turn, patients get false information about health issues like contraception from social media.”

Maternal & Perinatal Care Among Top Ten Patient Safety Concerns

ECRI supports efforts at the national level to increase access to women’s health care services and address preventable maternal and infant deaths and complications. The organization’s recent report on the Top Ten Patient Safety Concerns of 2024 features barriers to maternal and perinatal care in the #3 spot – including recommended strategies to improve access.

Specifically, ECRI advocates for public policies that extend insurance coverage for patients to 12 months postpartum and promote family planning services, that reimburse community partnerships with midwife and doula care and maternal home visiting programs, and that develop obstetric workforces to support care in maternity care desserts. Download the full report for details.

For more information, contact:

Yvonne Rhodes, ECRI Associate Director-Strategic Communications,

About ECRI

ECRI is an independent, nonprofit organization improving the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of care across all healthcare settings. With a focus on technology evaluation and safety, ECRI is respected and trusted by healthcare leaders and agencies worldwide. Over the past 55 years, ECRI has built its reputation on integrity and disciplined rigor, with an unwavering commitment to independence and strict conflict-of-interest rules. ECRI is the only organization worldwide to conduct independent medical device evaluations, with labs located in North America and Asia Pacific.