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A Word with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield CEO Curtis Barnett on Care for Expectant Mothers

Taking good care of expectant mothers

Anticipating the birth of a child is an amazing time to dream about and plan for their life’s journey ahead. It should be. Certainly, a healthy pregnancy shouldn’t be determined by who you are or where you live, but in the United States and Arkansas, that’s what the data shows. The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) has collected some sobering numbers.

Arkansas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, making it one of the riskiest places to have a baby. In fact, expectant mothers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in Arkansas are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-associated causes as Caucasian mothers. our state also has the third-highest infant mortality rate.

Why are Arkansas mothers at risk? There are several reasons:

  • Nearly half of Arkansas counties, 37 of 75, are maternity care deserts. These are counties without any hospitals or birth centers offering obstetric care and without any obstetric providers, according to a report by the March of Dimes analyzing federal Health Resources and Services Administration data.
  • About 10% of mothers in Arkansas are uninsured, and 20% do not get adequate prenatal care.
  • Arkansas ranks second in the nation for teen births, and many of these young mothers may not have access to prenatal or post-natal care or know where to get it.
  • Arkansans have a high rate of chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, which can raise the risk of pregnancy complications.
  • Many women in Arkansas also are having babies later in life, when they may have a higher risk of complications.
  • We also have a high rate of cesarean section births, which can lead to complications.

These are daunting issues, but the good news is that most pregnancy-related deaths and illnesses are preventable.

At Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we are dedicated to improving the health of expectant mothers before, during, and after pregnancy to reduce maternal fatalities and improve health equity. We are looking at how social determinants of health- where people live and work, available transportation, nearby healthcare, and education – impact maternal health and searching for ways to close gaps and make access to prenatal care available closer to home.

For our members, we have programs that can help support you throughout your pregnancy, connect you to resources and work with you and your healthcare providers to heave a healthier pregnancy. We have case managers who can come alongside our high-risk expectant mothers and walk you through the scary and celebratory times. Simply reach out and get connected through the customer service number on the back of your health plan ID card.

We are committed to improving the lives of all Arkansans and will be working closely with our state and medical community to find solutions to improve these sobering statistics. Together, we can take good care of moms and their babies born here in the Natural State.

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