In early July, it was announced that Detroit’s maternal death rate is three times the national average. Between 2008 and 2011, the Department of Community Health reported that 26 Detroit women died as a direct result of pregnancy or childbirth. Fortunately, two months earlier, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan alongside Wayne State University, Henry Ford Health System, the Detroit Medical Center and several other partners launched the “Make Your Date” campaign to help expectant mothers in need. While it’s extremely important that the campaign continue to grow and assist mothers in need, Duggan and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder must also address the root cause of the drastic maternal death rate: poverty.

Detroit’s maternal death rate is grossly inflated with 58.7 deaths per 100,000 babies. While this number is highly unacceptable, it’s not surprising given the linkpercent of the city’s population live below the poverty line, which is only made worse by a lack of education and deteriorated living conditions. Women in poverty are less likely to receive consistent medical care throughout pregnancy, putting a large number of Detroit’s expectant mothers at risk. This situation contributes to a maternal death rate in the city that’s higher than countries such as Libya, Uruguay and Vietnam.

While health care before and during pregnancy is important, Dr. Sonia Hassan — a dean for maternal, perinatal and child healthcare — insists that good health prior to pregnancy is vital for “cutting down the risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes.” Preventing these conditions is strongly rooted in a healthy diet and exercise, solutions that many Detroit residents do not have access to. The expense of healthy eating can be difficult for many to afford, so women in lower socioeconomic groups struggle to pay for the lifestyle that decreases the likelihood of maternal deaths.

“Make Your Date” is vehemently working to “ensure that every pregnant woman in every neighborhood knows that our great city is stepping up to provide support and ensure she delivers a healthy, happy baby.” The campaign along with several provisions in the Affordable Care Act help provide preventive service coverage to women with no cost-sharing. Women are provided with services such as pap smears, mammograms, vaccinations, colonoscopies, contraception and screening without needing to pay a portion of the cost.

Providing a wide array of fully-covered services will help women, yet more must be done to provide healthy opportunities for women in these conditions. Implementing initiatives to decrease the root of the problem — Detroit’s high poverty levels — alongside thoroughly educating the public will help thousands of pregnant women in Detroit deliver their babies safely.

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