The United States has a strikingly high maternal mortality rate of 20.7 deaths per 100,000 - more than double the comparably wealthy countries such as France and Canada. A 2015 World Health Organization report asserted that half of the United States’ maternal deaths were preventable, opening discussions on the pervasive racial disparities and care inconsistencies that contribute to the US Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) maternal mortality rate as three times higher than white women (CDC). The maternal mortality racial gap is a national issue, with the disparity persisting even in states with the lowest maternal mortality rates.
Healthcare deserts are communities with inadequate access to medical, dental, and pharmaceutical resources, located more than an hour away from the nearest hospital (CUNY). More than 5 million women live in maternal care deserts, areas without a single obstetrician, and metropolitan care deserts disproportionately affect BIPOC neighborhoods. An additional 10 million women have limited access to maternal care, residing in areas with less than 2 hospitals offering obstetric care and more than 10% of women in that area not having health insurance (March of Dimes). The time and cost of attending multiple prenatal appointments discourages expectant healthcare desert mothers from attending necessary check-ups, negatively impacting pregnancy outcomes.
The United States Government is addressing this disparity with the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, which includes 12 bills to improve maternal health through a multifaceted approach to healthcare. The act allocates $175 million in funding for communities to invest in housing and nutrition and $60 million towards digital tools such as telehealth (CDC).
Digital healthcare expands prenatal care access to traditionally underserved maternal desert communities through long-distance care and electronic communication. Tell Health is a free HIPAA compliant texting app, where patients can receive guidance from their OBGYN providers that they know and trust without leaving their home. Tell Health’s public posting feature functions as an educational and community outreach platform, where verified providers can share important medical information, such as prenatal care timelines or diet instructions.