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The worst rate of industrialized countries | Maternal mortality in the United States on the rise, especially among blacks



(Washington) The U.S. maternal mortality rate rose again in 2020 to a half-century high, according to new data that further shows black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy than white women.

Maternal mortality is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as death occurring during pregnancy or in the following 42 days, from a cause related to or aggravated by this pregnancy or its management.

A total of 861 women died in the United States in 2020.

Three times higher than in Canada

The maternal mortality rate therefore stood at 23.8 deaths per 100,000 births, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report released Wednesday.

This is the worst rate among industrialized countries. Canada, for example, has a maternal mortality rate of 7.5 deaths per 100,000 births, according to OECD statistics for the same year.

And the American situation has steadily worsened in recent years: the rate was 20.1 deaths per 100,000 births in 2019, and 17.4 in 2018.

As for 2020, “COVID-19 probably contributed,” Donna Hoyert, who participated in the report, told AFP. But this disease was not mentioned in 88% of cases, and is therefore only responsible for part of the general picture, she underlined.

Maternal mortality declined worldwide in the 20and century thanks to medical advances. But since the 2000s, the United States has been on the wrong track again, unlike most other comparable countries.

The last time the US maternal mortality rate was this high officially dates back to 1968, although a new methodology used since 2018 makes the comparison tricky.

“Most comparable countries have some form of universal health coverage,” notes AFP Eugene Declercq, a professor specializing in this field at Boston University.

“In the United States, we focus intensely on birth care—and that’s good—but the reality is that women start their pregnancies less healthy,” he explains.

Difficult access to abortion — increasingly complicated in conservative states — has also been linked to more maternal complications, according to a 2021 study.

Glaring inequalities

The American data above all reveal glaring inequalities.

In 2020, the maternal mortality rate was 55.3 per 100,000 births among black women, compared to 19.1 among white women.

According to experts, the explanation cannot be reduced to class and income differences between these two populations, even if these play a role.

In 2016, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation’s leading health agency, showed that the risk of maternal death was still 60% higher for a black woman with a college degree than for a black woman. a white woman with no more than high school.

“It has been repeatedly demonstrated that black women do not receive the same level of care” in the United States, explained to AFP Ebony Hilton, anesthesiologist at the University of Virginia, and expert on disparities in access. to health care.

Another study published in 2020 in the journal PNAS looked at births in Florida between 1992 and 2015 and found that black newborns were three times more likely to die than whites. But that risk diminished when the doctor was also black.

Nearly a year ago, President Joe Biden’s government called America’s maternal mortality rate “unacceptable” and announced investments to tackle the problem, such as funding “bias” training programs. unconscious” for health personnel.

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