The birth of a child is a joyous time of new beginnings and experiences. Tragically, nearly 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of complications during pregnancy or delivery. The loss of a woman during pregnancy, at delivery, or soon after delivery is devastating.

This tragic outcome can be related to a chain of events initiated by pregnancy, or the aggravation of an unrelated condition by the physiologic effects of pregnancy. In addition, considerable racial disparities exist, with black women almost four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. In July of 2011, the Arizona Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) began reviewing cases, determining preventability, and making recommendations for action. Findings from MMRC shows that more than half of these deaths are preventable.

Maternal Mortality Review is a process by which a multidisciplinary committee identifies and reviews cases of maternal death within one year of pregnancy. Review committees access multiple sources of clinical and non-clinical information that provide a deeper understanding of the circumstances surrounding a maternal death, as they develop recommendations for action to prevent similar deaths in the future. The goal of the Arizona MMRC program is to identify and characterize maternal deaths to develop prevention opportunities. Since the inception, the MMRC program has been operating with limited resources.

Our Bureau of Women’s and Children’s Health received a “Preventing Maternal Deaths: Supporting Maternal Mortality Review Committees” grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The grant provides funding for five years at $450,000 per year to further our partnerships and focus our efforts to improve the overall health for all women in Arizona. The grant will also support the Arizona MMRC in getting the most detailed, complete data on causes and circumstances surrounding maternal deaths to develop recommendations for prevention.

ADHS was one of only 25 grants awarded nationally. Congratulations to our MMRC program staff for receiving this grant and the exceptional work to improve health outcomes for pregnant women in Arizona.