The Louisiana Department of Health on Wednesday held the first Maternal Mortality Summit, a meeting of public health professionals, providers, policy makers and community leaders focused on improving childbirth outcomes.

Between 2011 and 2016, maternal mortality in Louisiana increased at a higher rate than the rest of the United States, and many of those deaths were preventable.The summit featured panel discussions and breakout sessions that covered key themes surrounding maternal mortality. These included clinical practices, communication and strategies on ending disparities through health equity work. 

Helping to lead current efforts to reduce preventable maternal death is the Louisiana Perinatal Quality Collaborative. This group works with and supports its 36 member hospitals to support them through the identification and implementation of best practices. The Quality Collaborative connects participating hospitals with subject-matter experts and national initiatives. 

The summit featured national and international leaders on maternal mortality, including global maternal health advocate Christy Turlington Burns, Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee and Dr. Gwyneth Lewis, the former National Clinical Leader for Maternity Services for the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.

Governor John Bel Edwards opened the summit by noting the importance of the Perinatal Quality Collaborative, which operates under the Louisiana Commission on Perinatal Care and Prevention of Infant Mortality.

“The Department of Health, with Dr. Gee’s leadership, is obviously actively working to improve maternal health outcomes, and as I mentioned, their efforts are starting to show promise already,” Edwards said during his remarks. “As governor, I’m committed to doing everything I can to make sure 100% of our facilities are putting in place the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health best practices, which we know will save lives.”

Secretary Gee highlighted the importance of elevating work related to racial equity and patient engagement.

“The women of our society are the bedrock, the foundation,” Gee said. “No one should die in the State of Louisiana giving life.”

Breakout sessions included legislative strategies to reduce maternal mortality; redesigning maternity care to meet birthing needs; strategies to address the leading causes of mortality, hemorrhage and hypertension; and recommendations for immediate and long-term action.