Current Report Articles
President's Perspective – Working Collaboratively to Improve Maternal Health in Kansas

mom baby (Mar. 1, 2024) – Maternal health is a strategic priority of the Kansas Hospital Association and its members. The KHA staff represents the membership on a variety of committees and initiatives seeking to improve maternal health in Kansas. KHA participates in the Kansas Maternal Mortality Review Committee and is a partner organization in the Kansas Perinatal Quality Collaborative, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, with dedicated physicians and clinicians specializing in maternal health, along with other stakeholders. Nearly 40 Kansas birthing hospitals, representing more than 90 percent of Kansas births, are actively engaged in the KPQC's Fourth Trimester Initiative, dedicated to improving maternal health outcomes in Kansas. KHA supports data collection and submission for the FTI through our benchmarking and reporting tool, QHi.

The Kansas Maternal Mortality Review Committee, launched in 2018 by KDHE, is a multi-disciplinary committee convening at the state level to comprehensively review deaths of women during or within one year of pregnancy. The KMMRC reviews clinical and non-clinical information to understand the causes and circumstances surrounding each maternal death in Kansas and develops statewide recommendations for action to prevent future maternal deaths.

The Kansas Severe Maternal Morbidity and Maternal Mortality, 2016-2020 report shows that for this period, there were 29 pregnancy-related deaths in Kansas. This translated to a pregnancy-related mortality ratio of 15 deaths per every 100,000 live births. The three-year rolling average in the report shows the PRMRs appeared to be trending upward from 11.3 in 2016-2018 to 17.2 per 100,000 live births in 2018-2020.

Severe maternal morbidity, which includes unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery resulting in significant consequences to a woman's health, occurs much more frequently than maternal mortality. According to the CDC, this has been steadily increasing in recent years. As outlined in the KSMMM Report, from 2016 to 2020, of the 164,049 delivery hospitalizations of Kansas residents, there were 1,019 deliveries with one or more severe maternal morbidities, according to the CDC definition of SMM, representing a rate of 62.1 per 10,000 delivery hospitalizations. According to the KSMMM report, this implies approximately one in 161 women who delivered a baby experienced SMM. The SMM rate increased significantly from 56.1 in 2016 to 71.0 per 10,000 delivery hospitalizations in 2020.

This week, KHA along with the Missouri Hospital Association, through our partner organization the Kansas City Metropolitan Healthcare Council, convened a panel discussion with hospital and community leaders to discuss maternal health in Kansas City and share solutions to prevent maternal morbidity and mortality. The panel was moderated by Sharla Smith, PhD, associate professor of population health and director of birth equity, obstetrics and gynecology, KU Medical Center and founder of the Kansas Birth Equity Network. Panelists included: Traci Johnson, MD, university health chair of Perinatal Safety and chair, Missouri Pregnancy Associated Mortality Review Board; Kari Smith, MSN, AdventHealth clinical nurse educator and maternal quality improvement co-coordinator, Kansas Perinatal Quality Collaborative; and Kenna Belshe, DO, North Kansas City Hospital vice president/chief clinical officer and Meritas Health medical director.

The panelists shared solutions their hospitals have implemented to improve maternal health outcomes in the Kansas City area and statewide and how those efforts engaged the communities they serve. The impact of social determinants on maternal health was discussed and how communities are addressing those social factors. The importance of policy changes needed to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality, including increased Medicaid reimbursement and access to health care coverage also were discussed. While Kansas extended Medicaid benefits to eligible women for up to one year postpartum in 2022, Medicaid expansion continues to be a priority to ensure access to needed health care.

It will take a concentrated effort from a broad group of stakeholders, including KHA members, to make meaningful improvements to maternal health in Kansas. We encourage you to share any innovative activities your hospital has implemented to achieve progress in your local community. Your commitment and efforts are much appreciated.
--Chad Austin