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Arizona Works To Improve Data On Maternal Deaths, Injuries

An Arizona committee will soon investigate how the state collects data about maternal deaths and moms who are seriously injured in childbirth.

New moms die in the United States at a higher rate than anywhere else in the developed world.

Arizona has studied these deaths since 2011, but Arizona Sen. Kate Brophy McGee said it wasn’t enough.

“As you recall it was just a single line in the statute — keep track and give us a count,” Brophy McGee said. “What do you do with it?”

Last year, Brophy McGee heard the story of Leticia and Vince Garcia. They had met the senator through their neighborhood watch group.

In August 2018, Vince Garcia’s 23-year-old daughter died shortly after giving birth to her third child. She had no preexisting conditions and had previously been released from the hospital.

“To be quite honest with you, I still don’t understand,” Vince Garcia told KJZZ earlier this year. “It makes no sense.”

The Garcias worked with March of Dimes Arizona and Brophy McGee’s office to create and promote legislation to bolster Arizona’s study of maternal deaths and moms who are seriously injured after childbirth.

In Arizona, an estimated 20 women die for every 100,000 live births. The number may not seem high, but what's alarming is that 89% of these deaths are deemed preventable. About 1,000 have their health seriously impacted by childbirth.

The bill Brophy McGee sponsored was signed into law and does two main things.

  1. Create an advisory committee to study improvements to how Arizona collects information about maternal deaths and moms who are seriously injured by childbirth. The committee will make recommendations by the end of 2019. Legislation sponsored by Brophy McGee created a committee to help improve how Arizona collects data about new moms who die or are seriously injured.
  2. Require the Arizona Department of Health Services to issue a report on maternal deaths and injuries in Arizona and their causes by the end of December 2020.

The advisory committee will include representatives of hospitals, Native American tribes and nonprofits. Members of the public will also have an opportunity to be a part of the committee.

“We’re really hopeful that we’ll see some tangible, actionable recommendations that will help the state move forward with better information,” said Sheila Sjolander, Arizona Department of Health Services Assistant director for Prevention Services.

Sjolander said the committee, which should be formed by August builds on work the department is already doing to reduce maternal deaths and injuries in the state. A public forum is planned for the fall.

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Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.