March of Dimes Report Highlights Maternal Health Crisis in Kansas; State Launches $1.1 Million Initiative to Address Gaps in Care

By Trish Svoboda

A 2023 annual report by the March of Dimes on maternal healthcare in Kansas has highlighted a potential crisis for birthing-age mothers and their babies.

The report revealed that 45.7% of Kansas counties are classified as maternity care deserts, meaning they lack obstetric providers as well as hospitals and birth centers offering obstetric care. The report also noted that last year 1 in 12 birthing-age women had no birthing hospital within a 30-minute drive.

The March of Dimes reports that women in Kansas face high vulnerability to adverse outcomes due to limited reproductive health services before, during, and after childbirth. In 2023, Kansas had 22.0 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, either during pregnancy or within six weeks postpartum. The infant mortality rate was 5.3 deaths per 1,000. Rates were significantly higher among Black birthing mothers and their babies.

To address this, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Bureau of Family Health received $1.1 million from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to launch the State Maternal Health Innovation (MHI) program. The initiative aims to improve access to maternal health services and enhance workforce training and resources statewide.

Elaine Johannes, the Kansas Health Foundation’s Distinguished Professor of Community Health at Kansas State University, serves on a committee formed by the Maternal Health Innovation (MHI) program, administered by Wichita State University’s Community Engagement Institute. The committee held its first meeting in late May and will conduct baseline assessments of the state’s maternal care, identify gaps, develop a strategic plan, and assist in implementing new interventions.

Johannes noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is another valuable resource for women.

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