Austin, TX | Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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March of Dimes, the nonprofit organization leading the fight for the health of all moms and babies, today launched the #BlanketChange advocacy campaign designed to cultivate awareness about the urgent health crisis moms and babies face across Texas.

More than 100 volunteers from across the state will descend on the Texas State Capitol, meet with state lawmakers, deliver iconic newborn receiving blankets and advocate for maternal and infant health priorities.  Among the issues of legislative focus for March of Dimes Texas advocates: maternal mortality, postpartum coverage and newborn screening.

Maternal Mortality:

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 who are concerned about the health and well-being of women and babies to join us.”

In October 2018, 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.  116 of our 254 counties in Texas are classified as maternity care deserts. That’s nearly half of Texas counties with no access to maternity care.

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 urges lawmakers to support:

  • House Bill (HB) 1111, which provides, among other provisions, for pregnancy medical home pilot programs in at least one rural county with high maternal mortality rates, seeks a waiver for case management and care coordination services for women who are at-risk of maternal mortality, and evaluates the use of telemedicine medical services for women during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
  • The House budget which includes DSHS’ request of $7 million to address maternal mortality & morbidity by increasing current TexasAIM efforts, building public awareness about preventive measures, and creating programming to address high risk factors and appropriate care coordination for women of childbearing age.

Postpartum Coverage:

Ensuring a healthy pregnancy does not start the day a woman gets pregnant.  Texas Medicaid provides critical health care services for eligible pregnant women, but “pregnancy related” Medicaid ends 60 days after the mother gives birth. The need for postpartum services exists well beyond 60 days and is a critical time to help women who intend to have more children get and stay healthy. Caring for women beyond 60 days postpartum will help ensure the health of women during their subsequent pregnancies, improve birth outcomes, and ultimately reduce costs for the state.  With 56 percent of Texas births covered by Medicaid, Texas has an opportunity to improve women’s health and birth outcomes by lengthening the period for postpartum coverage.

Specifically, extending postpartum coverage would:

  • Reduce the rate of low birth weight and premature births
  • Improve maternal health
  • Promote early detection and treatment of postpartum depression
  • Reduce health care costs

March of Dimes urges lawmakers to support:

  • House bills (HBs) 241, 411, 610, 744, 1110 and Senate bill (SB) 147 which extend postpartum coverage from 60 days to one year.

Newborn Screening:

The Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (RUSP) by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Texas recommends screening of all newborns for 35 core conditions. Texas currently screens all newborns for 31 of those core disorders. X-ALD is one of the conditions on the RUSP list that is not currently being screened in Texas. X-linked Adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD) is a rare, inherited disorder that causes damage to the nervous system and kidneys. The disorder causes the fatty covering that insulates nerves in the brain and spinal cord to deteriorate, which reduces the ability of the nerves to relay information to the brain. Without treatment, death usually occurs within one to ten years after the start of symptoms. X-ALD can be detected using the traditional newborn dried bloodspot.  Infants with X-ALD often appear healthy at birth and the condition may go unnoticed. Research has shown that treatment prior to the onset of symptoms can be lifesaving or lead to better quality of life for those with the disorder.

March of Dimes urges lawmakers support:

  • Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS) request to fix the budget gap, fully fund and implement screening for X-ALD, and repair the lab’s infrastructure. The goal is to screen for all conditions on the RUSP. If screening for X-ALD is fully funded, DSHS can begin plans to screen for Pompe disease, MPS 1, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). This will allow the Texas newborn screening panel to catch up with the RUSP so the state will screen for all recommended conditions.

Texas Lobby Day Schedule:

  • 10a.m.- noon: Volunteer training 10:00 a.m.- noon (100+ volunteers) Noon: Group photo on Texas State Capitol steps (200 #blanketchange iconic newborn receiving blankets) Noon- 2:30 p.m. legislative meetings (details to be provided upon request)

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About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

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