A faculty doctor at the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) medical school is working with the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health and Hawaiʻi lawmakers to reduce the number of women dying in Hawaiʻi during childbirth. Mothers in Hawaiʻi — like the United States as a whole — are dying of pregnancy-related complications, or maternal mortality, at higher rates than in any other developed country.
In the past three decades, nations like Germany and Japan have significantly decreased maternal deaths while in the U.S. the situation has worsened by 300 percent. In Hawaiʻi, maternal deaths account for five to 15 fatalities every year.
The chart shows maternal mortality rates from The Lancet Medical Journal. The data was published in, “Global, regional, and national levels of maternal mortality, 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015.”
Hawaiʻi Health Maternal Mortality Task Force
In 2016, Hawaiʻi lawmakers mandated a comprehensive review of child and maternal deaths. Dr. Scott Harvey (JABSOM MD 2010), the state’s only obstetric critical care specialist, chairs the Hawaiʻi Department of Health Maternal Mortality Review Committee. Dr. Harvey is an Assistant Professor and Director of Resident Simulation in the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the Hawai’i Residency Program. He is also Director of the Adult Intensive Care Unit at the Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women and Children.
Dr. Harvey says that although there is no particular trend at this time that can explain why mothers in Hawaiʻi are dying in childbirth, he urges all women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy to seek care from a professional health care provider.
“The unfortunate thing is a lot of the maternal deaths that we’ve seen have had either a very minimal or no prenatal care. Some (people) didn’t even know they were pregnant,” said Dr. Harvey, JABSOM MD 2010.