365: “Unacceptable” Maternal Mortality Rates, Mounting a Vaccination Defense

Dr. Daniel Edney, State Health Officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health, has studied the data in Mississippi’s latest Maternal Mortality Report and says the rates are unacceptable; Heather Tomlinson, ASTHO Senior Analyst for...

Dr. Daniel Edney, State Health Officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health, has studied the data in Mississippi’s latest Maternal Mortality Report and says the rates are unacceptable; Heather Tomlinson, ASTHO Senior Analyst for Immunizations, explains in a new blog article how members can defend vaccination requirements to their state lawmakers; and there is only one day left to apply to be part of the next cohort enrolled in ASTHO’s Diverse Executives Leading in Public Health program.

AP News Article: Maternal deaths and disparities increase in Mississippi

ASTHO Blog Article: Building Vaccine Confidence Among State and Territorial Legislatures

ASTHO Webpage: Diverse Executives Leading in Public Health

ASTHO Webpage: Be in the Know

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Monday, February 27nd, 2023. I'm Robert Johnson. Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.



We have the number one highest rate of infant mortality, but we're real close with maternal, we're not the worst, but we're too high.



Mississippi state health officer Dr. Daniel Edney on the latest numbers that show maternal deaths and disparities on the rise in the Magnolia State.



I suspect this is anecdotally, but I suspect a big problem is the fact that we don't truly have presumptive eligibility for our Medicaid moms. That does delay the ability for women in Mississippi, who depend on Medicaid for their obstetrical care, to get early prenatal care which we know the earlier, you receive prenatal care to better your outcomes. And we still have women who are accessing care way too late in their pregnancies.



Edney has studied the data in Mississippi, his latest maternal mortality report, he says the rates are unacceptable.



We need to take ownership for the problems that we have, and then we need to bring together the right community partners to bring solutions to the table. That's what we're doing it in Mississippi. At the population level, we’re pulling together the right stakeholders, with the understanding the only way you come to the table as if you have no sacred cows. What we've done for 30 years has gotten us right where we are. And if we don't change what we're doing, we will continue to look at the same outcomes.



Edney is looking at every program and talking with every partner in his urgent quest to save lives.



We're looking at the success we've had in our rural areas with a trauma system of care, a stroke system of care, and we have areas of the state, I think, we're going to have to have an OB system of care. And in those areas, we're using the Stabilizing OB and Neonatal Patients, Training for OB/Neonatal Emergencies, Outcome Improvements, Resource Sharing, and Kind Care for Vulnerable Families (STORK) initiative to train our first responders that when they show up on the scene and a mother is bleeding from placental abruption, they have been trained to recognize it, and to get her to the right level of care to save her life and the life of the baby.



You can read more about the Mississippi case using the link in the show notes.


The pandemic weakened support for vaccines among state lawmakers in many legislatures around the country. Now, ASTHO is working with its members to help them defend vaccination requirements. ASTHO's Heather Tomlinson says one of the goals is to educate people who were elected last fall.



So, connecting with these newly elected officials provides an opportunity to build relationships and increase vaccine competence in these states. So additionally, working with our trusted messengers and grassroots coalitions, such as Vaccinate Your Family or the Safe Communities Coalition, can provide allies to educate leaders and advocate for strong vaccine policy.



Tomlinson along with colleague Maggie Davis has written a blog article to help ASTHO members manage the debate in their states and territories. The advice includes guidance about how to write strong testimony.



When public health officials create testimony, they have an opportunity to highlight the proposed legislations impacts of public health and their states or territories, and so officials can leverage these partnerships with agencies or organizations that can bring additional subject matter expertise to the testimony. And additionally, beyond providing information, testimony from local citizens can provide compelling personal stories and shared values for legislators.



Tomlinson says the goal is to help members protect vaccine requirements from policies that could hurt public health.




So, the main thing we really want to help these states with is different successful strategies from vaccine experts and their peers. What's been successful in creating these strong vaccine policies and addressing vaccine policies that could be a weakening vaccine requirements.



You can read the blog article using the link in the show notes.


Also today, there is only one day left to apply for ASTHO's Diverse Executives Leading in Public Health Program (DELPH). The deadline is tomorrow February 28th. Last Wednesday, program graduate Harold Gill said he was able to start a business thanks to the lessons he learned as part of a previous cohort. Interested applicants can get more information using the link in the show notes. Also, you can listen to Gill's comments on the February 22nd episode of the newscast. That link is in the show notes as well.


Finally, this morning, get the latest public health news delivered to your inbox every week when you sign up for ASTHO's Public Health Weekly email newsletter. It's got links to new articles, webinars, trainings and other resources. Join the list by clicking on the link in the show notes.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information. I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Daniel Edney MD

State Health Officer, Mississippi State Department of Health

Heather Tomlinson

Senior Analyst, Immunization, ASTHO