Business-based community engagement can improve maternal health, says new report

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Maternal health is a vital barometer of a community’s health system, and Houston has higher maternal mortality rates than the rest of the country. / The Houston area has a world-class health care system, but poor maternal health outcomes are partly due to underlying economic and social factors. / A lack of coordination and sustainable funding are major challenges. / The business community can act to improve maternal health, which will both improve the overall health of the region and increase labor productivity.

Houston, May 11, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Launch of the Center for Houston’s Future (CHF) Social Determinants of Health Affecting Maternal Health and Opportunities to Improve Outcomes, which, in the context of COVID-19, takes stock of maternal health in our region and offers innovative recommendations for improvement. Find the report sponsored by HCA Houston Healthcare here: www.futurehouston.org/maternalhealth

“Houston’s business leaders have a long history of leveraging public-private partnerships to support the community and maintain and grow a robust economy,” said Center President and CEO Brett Perlman. “A key recommendation from our report is that business, health and community service leaders work together to create a mechanism for investment from the business community for sustainable funding in results-based programs that address the drivers that lead to poor maternal health outcomes.”

The 46-page report follows our 2020 report, Houston’s Economic Future: Health Care, which focused on the economic vitality of the region’s health care system and the health of our community. These publications are part of CHF’s work around health, health care and health equity.

The United States, our new report notes, has the highest maternal mortality rate of rich, developed nations, despite spending a higher percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) on health care. Poor maternal health outcomes cost the country an estimated $32 billion in 2019. Houston, in turn, has higher maternal mortality rates than the rest of the country. Additionally, the Houston metro area had preterm birth rates of 11.9% in 2019 compared to the national rate of 10.2%, indicating poor maternal health outcomes.

More than 60% of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States are preventable. Since one in 10 babies in the United States is born in Texas, our community can also significantly improve national maternal health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted disparities in health, particularly regarding the impact of societal factors, and the new report finds similar trends in maternal health. The report’s findings are based on more than 30 expert interviews, an extensive literature review, and a panel discussion of health experts from various disciplines. We have found:

• A broad approach that addresses the cycle of poor outcomes and applies to a variety of situations is needed to significantly improve maternal health.
• Successful programs are developed at the community level to meet unique needs and are coordinated to avoid gaps and duplication.
• Houston has a long history of mobilizing public-private partnerships to solve tough problems.

Thus, we recommend three strategies:

Implementation of the internal policy: Houston businesses can implement family-friendly work policies.
Employee training: In cases where it may not always be economically sensible for employers to provide health insurance benefits, employers can provide training on available health services, such as federally licensed health clinics.
Cooperative community investment: Companies can improve employee health outcomes by investing in community health programs in areas where employees live.

Although much work has been done to understand what it takes to improve maternal health outcomes, sustainability and coordination are barriers to success.

“We are issuing a call to action for our business leaders to step up and work with us and our partners to address this issue,” Perlman said.

This report was made possible by funding from HCA Houston Healthcare, a leading health care provider in the Houston area, with nearly one million patients treated each year. With a base of 15,000 colleagues, HCA Houston Healthcare’s comprehensive network includes 13 hospitals, 10 ambulatory surgery centers, 11 stand-alone emergency centers and numerous diagnostic imaging facilities.

“We believe this report will help our community and business leaders understand the importance of reducing health disparities, which will lead to improved maternal health outcomes,” said Troy Villarreal, President. of the HCA Healthcare Gulf Coast division.

About the Center for Houston’s Future: CHF brings together business, government and community stakeholders to engage in evidence-based strategic planning, collaboration and action on issues of great importance to the region. It engages in economic research and strategic planning, organizes community events and trains leaders. The Center is an independent affiliate of the Greater Houston Partnership. Its leadership program has graduated more than 1,300 business and civic leaders.

About HCA Houston Healthcare: HCA Houston Healthcare is the leading healthcare provider in the Greater Houston area, treating nearly one million patients annually. With an employee base of 15,000, HCA Houston Healthcare’s comprehensive network includes: 13 hospitals, 10 ambulatory surgery centers, 11 stand-alone emergency centers and numerous stand-alone diagnostic imaging facilities. The system operates a regional transfer center that provides support for patient transfers to and from its facilities, as well as access to ground and air transportation within a 150-mile radius. As one of the largest healthcare systems in the region, HCA Houston Healthcare recognizes the importance of giving back to the communities it serves. A strong advocate for the next generation of healthcare professionals, HCA Houston Healthcare is a major supporter of the University of Houston College of Nursing and the new University of Houston College of Medicine. For more information, visit HCAhoustonhealthcare.com.

CONTACT: Laura Goldberg Center for Houston's Future 713-844-9327 lgoldberg@futurehouston.org Selena Mejia HCA Houston Healthcare 281-687-6206 Selena.Mejia@HCAhealthcare.com


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