UAB doctors working to prevent high infant and maternal mortality numbers

Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 10:00 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama ranks among the worst in infant and maternal health across the country.

Doctors with UAB said one reason is because there are a lack of OBGYN providers in Alabama.

Officials with UAB’s School of Public Health said Alabama has a lot of “maternity deserts” across the state. This is where pregnant women have to drive far distances to get specialized prenatal care. Doctors said it’s contributing to negative pregnancy and birth outcomes.

UAB’s Dr. Martha Wingate said sometimes in these deserts, there may be a hospital or doctor’s office, but they have closed their maternity ward, so there isn’t specialized care for mothers and infants.

Wingate is a part of a newly launched UAB task force where they are working to get more providers in the state and in these desert areas, but it’s part of a five year process, so the task force will also bring more training to the doctors already in those areas.

“How do we enhance the workforce that we already have to be able to address some of these issues in places where it’s not the traditional OBGYN,” Wingate said. “We are thinking about how do we train emergency doctor folks, how do we train EMS, just thinking all across the spectrum.”

Wingate said another contributing factor to Alabama’s maternal mortality rate is the state’s overall health. She said they see high rates of hypertension and diabetes and these can be very dangerous during pregnancy, especially with a lack of nearby care.

The task force will also work to improve data on infant and maternal deaths to get a clear picture of how much it is happening in the state.

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