ALL mothers in Howard County deserve access to prenatal care
Howard County prides itself on being one of the healthiest communities in the country – and in many ways, we have made enormous progress in building a culture of health and improving access to quality health care in our community. However, one area where we are falling seriously behind is in providing prenatal and postpartum care for uninsured women.
This has been a problem in Howard County for far too long. Over a decade ago, cuts to our public health budget shut down our county-run maternity clinic and it’s been glaringly absent ever since. Now, there are exactly zero maternity clinics who will see ALL women within our county borders. As a result, many uninsured pregnant women seeking care have to travel outside of Howard County in order to get basic prenatal services. Oftentimes, this hardship means that they do not get the proper maternity care they need until late into their pregnancy, or sometimes not at all.
This specifically, and disproportionately, harms undocumented women and women of color and can lead to poor birth outcomes, including premature birth, low birth weight and even infant or maternal death. Fourteen percent of Black residents and 11% of Hispanic residents reported having no health insurance compared with only 4% of White residents, according to the 2021 Howard Community Health Survey. In 2019, Black mothers living in Howard County were 63% more likely to have an infant born premature and 54% more likely to have an infant with low birth weight than White mothers – key factors that contribute to infant death.[i] In the same year, almost 12% of Hispanic mothers and 8% of Black mothers in the county received late or no prenatal care – in the case of Hispanic mothers, that’s more than four times the percentage of White mothers.[ii] Instead of giving our children the foundation necessary to live long, healthy and vibrant lives, we have put obstacles in front of them – even before they are born.
For many years, Montgomery County has offered an effective Maternity Partnership program with area hospitals that provides prenatal care to uninsured pregnant women. Because of the program, 97% of babies born to Partnership mothers were born at a healthy weight. Similar programs also exist in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Having prenatal care services is extremely crucial for women and children in our community. That’s why several groups including CASA, Alianza Latina, Chase Brexton and One World Healthcare, along with other community advocates, are leading the charge to fill this gap in Howard County by urging the officials to include funding for a Maternity Partnership Program in our next county budget. Howard County’s own Racial Equity Task force also recommended that the county establish this program – and the Horizon Foundation agrees. It is a step we must take to improve health outcomes for women and children and advance racial equity.
ALL women in Howard County should be able to access prenatal care so they can have a healthy pregnancy and healthy babies. To show your support, sign on to CASA’s petition asking Howard County to establish and fund a Maternity Partnership Program in our county.
[i] Maryland Vital Records, 2019.
[ii] Maryland Vital Records, 2019.