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March of Dimes Report Card Gives Harris County an ‘F’ Grade for Maternal Health

Public health officials in Stark County revealed alarming statistics on April 12 during the second Maternal and Child Health Conference, hosted by Harris County Public Health and other local agencies. Shockingly, 1 in 8 babies born in Harris County are born prematurely, with the county receiving an “F” letter grade from the March of Dimes national report card. The report also highlighted disparities, with Black babies being one and a half times more likely to be born preterm and three times more likely to die compared to white babies.

Alicia Lee, the director of maternal and child health collective impact at March of Dimes, emphasized the importance of addressing racial inequities and access to resources to combat the rising pregnancy-related deaths, especially among Black birthing individuals. County health officials echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the critical role of addressing social determinants of health such as food insecurity and economic instability in improving birthing outcomes.

In light of these challenges, Harris County Executive Director Barbie Robinson introduced the Maternal Health Bill of Rights during the conference, aimed at addressing the maternal and infant mortality crisis. The bill outlines various rights related to prenatal care, family planning, breastfeeding, and pregnancy complications, aiming to provide better support and resources for expectant mothers.

Attendees, including Alysia Greer from the Houston nonprofit Civic Heart, shared personal experiences highlighting the need for improved maternal care, with Greer recounting her own uncomfortable birthing experience more than two decades ago. The conference shed light on the urgent need for systemic changes to ensure equitable access to quality maternal and child health care services.