In recognition of Maternal Health Awareness Day, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement said Monday it is seeking to raise awareness of Arkansas’ ranking as the least healthy state for moms.

“Arkansas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, and our teen pregnancy and infant mortality rates are nearly the highest,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “This is unacceptable. With a new administration and General Assembly, the time is ripe for a concerted effort to improve maternal health in Arkansas.”

Some statistics:

Arkansas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, with 40 deaths per 100,000 live births between 2018 and 2020, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Arkansas has the second-highest teen birth rate in the nation, behind only Mississippi. In 2020, there were 28 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19 in Arkansas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Arkansas has the third-highest infant mortality rate in the nation, behind only Louisiana and Mississippi. In 2020, there were seven infant deaths per 1,000 live births in Arkansas, according to the CDC.

Among all pregnancy-associated maternal deaths in Arkansas in 2018, Black mothers were more than twice as likely to die than white mothers, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

A 2018 report by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture concluded that if Arkansas were a country, its infant mortality rate would rank worse than 74 countries, including Serbia, Cuba and Ukraine.

One thing Arkansas could do to promote maternal health is to support moms during their babies’ first year of life by extending postpartum Medicaid coverage. Under the recent federal budget bill, Arkansas has the option to lengthen the postpartum Medicaid coverage period from the current 60-day duration to one year, an option that 35 states have implemented or are planning to implement, including Alabama. At least one bill being considered by the Arkansas General Assembly would exercise this option. The ACHI Health Policy Board recently voted to take a position in support of lengthening postpartum Medicaid coverage to one year.

“ACHI looks forward to working with Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the General Assembly and stakeholders across the state to address the many issues that make Arkansas one of the riskiest places to have a baby,” Thompson said. “Every mother’s pregnancy and delivery in Arkansas should result in a safe and healthy outcome.”

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