Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.1819/A.3276) to create a Maternal Mortality Review Board charged with reviewing the cause of each maternal death in New York State and making recommendations to the Department of Health on strategies for preventing future deaths and improving overall health outcomes.
"New York has made significant progress ensuring every woman in the state has equal access to high quality healthcare before, during and after pregnancy," Governor Cuomo said. "Racial disparities in maternal mortality is a national crisis, and with the creation of this expert review board and advisory council, we are tackling the problem head-on to ensure safer, healthier pregnancies for all."
"Despite the medical advances our nation has seen over the last century, there is still an unconscionable number of black women who die during childbirth, and we are determined to correct this injustice and save the lives of mothers across the state," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "Our Maternal Mortality Task Force is helping to examine this issue from every angle, and the creation of the Maternal Mortality Review Board will review maternal deaths and make recommendations to address the crisis. As part of our Women's Agenda, we are taking bold action to end structural racial disparities in our society that all too often lead to tragedy."
The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world - and racial disparities continue to persist, as black women are nationally almost four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, and three times more likely in New York. While New York State has made improvements in reducing maternal mortality rates since 2010, when it was ranked 46th in the nation for the lowest mortality rate, the state still ranks 30th in the nation.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Maternal mortality is always tragic, but the death is even more heartbreaking when it could have been preventable. New York State is actively addressing this priority issue, and we are fortunate to have key partners engage to identify issues that will reduce these deaths and improve maternal outcomes."
State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee and sponsor of the bill said, "Tragically, too many women are dying and developing life-threatening complications after birth in New York State, particularly black mothers. By signing S.1819 into law, our State is taking concrete steps to develop and implement comprehensive strategies to help us curtail this public health crisis. Further, it will allow us to adequately address the racial disparities causing women of color, especially in high poverty neighborhoods, to be disproportionately affected by higher rates of maternal mortality and morbidity. I thank the governor for signing this important piece of legislation."
Assembly Member Latoya Joyner said, "Utilizing the experience and expertise of some of New York's finest healthcare professionals, the statewide Maternal Mortality Review Board will save the lives of women throughout our state. Including diverse representatives, particularly those from communities that have been historically underserved, the creation of this board is an important milestone for women's healthcare in New York and I thank Gov. Cuomo for his leadership on this critical public health issue."
The Board will review every maternal death in New York State, and, to protect patient privacy, their meetings will not be public. The Board will also make policy and best practice recommendations to the New York State Department of Health to improve maternal outcomes by reducing maternal mortalities and morbidities. The Board's recommendations will specifically contemplate racial and economic disparities.
To ensure targeted stakeholder representation and to hear directly from impacted communities, the legislation also charges the Department of Health with establishing a community-led Maternal Mortality Advisory Council comprised of community organizations, public health professionals, clinicians and those individuals most affected by disparate maternal health outcomes. The Maternal Mortality Advisory Council will work in conjunction with the New York State Maternal Mortality Review Board to develop a deeper understanding of social determinant factors known to cause and exacerbate disparities in maternal health outcomes, including root causes such as racism and implicit bias.
The Maternal Mortality Review Board builds on the recommendations of the Governor's Council on Women and Girls and the Taskforce on Maternal Mortality and Disparate Racial Outcomes and is composed of multidisciplinary health professionals who serve and/or represent diverse communities statewide. The Governor announced the creation of the Taskforce, and several other initiatives to combat maternal mortality and reduce racial disparate outcomes, last April. The enacted budget includes $8 million over two years to support Taskforce recommendations, including the Maternal Mortality Review Board and Maternal Mortality Advisory Council, as well as more than $2 million through the Department of Health's Maternal Infant Community Health Collaboratives to be used to increase access to community health workers in high risk areas statewide. CHWs play a vital role in providing social support, information, advocacy and connection to services.
This new law, combined with other ongoing state efforts, further advances New York's commitment as a leader in reducing maternal mortality and improving disparate racial outcomes.