March of Dimes, the nonprofit organization leading the fight for the health of all moms and babies, today launched #BlanketChange, a powerful advocacy campaign designed to cultivate awareness about the urgent health crisis moms and babies face – including increased rates of maternal mortality and preterm birth – and inspire advocacy and action in support of March of Dimes’ Blanket Change Agenda. The organization also released a landmark report that reveals more than 5 million women live in counties where there are no hospitals offering obstetric services and no obstetrics providers, representing 35 percent of all counties nationwide.

More than 700 women die from causes related to pregnancy each year, and an estimated 50,000 suffer life-threatening complications, making America the most dangerous developed country in which to give birth. Women of color are most at risk of facing complications, and black women are more than three times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy-related causes.

“Even one death of a new mother is a tragedy. Seven hundred is a public health crisis,” stated March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart. “These deaths of pregnant women and new mothers are completely unacceptable. The time for #BlanketChange is now, and March of Dimes urges all those who are concerned about the health and well-being of women and babies to join us.”

Today March of Dimes also released a report entitled “Nowhere to Go: Maternity Care Deserts Across the U.S.” identifying counties in which access to maternity health care services is limited or absent, either through lack of services or barriers to a woman’s ability to access that care. There are 1,085 counties in the U.S. that are identified as maternity care deserts – counties with no hospital that is staffed appropriately to provide care for pregnant women and no obstetrician/gynecologist or certified nurse midwives to care for them.  Additional key findings from the report include:
•    More than 5 million women in the U.S. live in maternity care deserts, yet nearly 150,000 babies are born to women living in these areas.
•    Over 10 million women live in counties with limited access to maternity care, with few hospitals staffed appropriately to provide care for pregnant women, few providers available to appropriately to provide care for pregnant women and a high proportion of women without health insurance.
•    While the majority of maternal care deserts are in rural areas, the problem also exists in large metropolitan areas or urban settings.

March of Dimes is calling on candidates to protect moms and babies and reduce the number of deaths each year by:
•    Passing maternal mortality and morbidity bills that will help prevent tragic and needless deaths of mothers during and after pregnancy;
•    Requiring all health plans to cover people with pre-existing conditions;
•    Requiring all health plans to cover maternity and newborn care;
•    Ensuring new moms don’t have to trade maternal health benefits they need to afford health coverage.
•    Passing the PREEMIE Act, a bill to renew the only federal law dedicated to the prevention and treatment of pretermb birth

Starting at 7:00am today, October 10, 700 blankets will be displayed on the National Mall to represent the 700 women who die from pregnancy-related causes each year. The blankets provide an arresting visual of the epidemic of maternal deaths and mission of the campaign: to demand that all candidates promise to fight for #BlanketChange this election season.

March of Dimes is enlisting volunteers, partner organizations, and the general public to urge every congressional candidate to commit to support these measures and bring #BlanketChange to the United States. The campaign will run through October and into November, which is Prematurity Awareness Month.

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