Remarks by the Vice President on the Administration's Commitment to Improve Maternal Health in San Francisco, California
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Please, have a seat. Please, have a seat. Adrienne, thank you so very much for telling your story and for your courage and for your fortitude and all that you do. Thank you for that.
I've spent a good deal of time this afternoon with many women who, really, I've said to you -- I see many of you in the audience -- your voices are so important. And you are speaking for women around our country, and you are bringing them here in this room as part of this conversation. And it's such an important conversation to happen, not just because we're talking about it but because we're actually going to do something about it.
And all of this is a reminder of why this work is so essential and so urgent.
So, it is good to be here -- to be here with the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. Thank you, Madam Administrator. As well as our Senator, Dianne Feinstein. It's good to be with you. And our Lieutenant Governor, Eleni Kounalakis. Mayor London Breed is here. And to all the local and statewide elected leaders.
Thank you all for the work you do every day.
So, I want to also say to all the healthcare professionals: Thank you for the work you do every day. (Applause.) Yes.
You know, over the course of these last two years, we have certainly thanked the healthcare professionals for the work that you have done during these most difficult days of this pandemic; and your relentlessness, your conviction to help those, many of whom are perfect strangers to you; and the risk that you have taken and that you have taken for your own self -- and also a risk that it could be presented to your families -- for coming to work every day to concern yourself with the health and wellbeing of so many people.
And then, in particular, to the healthcare workers who are here today who work on this important issue: You do this work every day, and it is work that protects our mothers, our sisters, our aunties, our daughters. And it is work that lifts up whole communities.
As Vice President of the United States, I can tell you I do believe that our nation is facing a crisis on the issue of maternal health. It's real. And it is impacting so many women and their families and communities.
Before, during, and after childbirth, women in our nation are dying at a higher rate from pregnancy-related causes than in any other wealthy or developed nation in our world.
And we know that, for certain women, the risk is much higher, regardless of income level, regardless of education level.
Black women are three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications. Native women are more than twice as likely to die. And women who live in rural America, where there are many maternal care deserts, they are about 60 percent more likely to die.
And a big factor which continues to these outcomes, of course, is systemic inequities. The differences in how people are treated based on who they or where they live. These differences create significant disparities, then, in how women experience the healthcare system -- disparities that are often a matter of life and death.
We must also recognize that when women do not get the healthcare they need, families suffer, communities suffer, and our nation suffers.
In fact, one estimate suggests that in a single year, the direct and indirect cost of poor maternal healthcare could be more than $30 billion. Thirty billion dollars.
For years, I have worked to make sure our nation treats maternal mortality as the national crisis it is.
As a United States senator proudly representing the great state of California -- (applause) -- together with Congresswoman Alma Adams, I introduced one of the first bills in the history of the United States Senate to target racial disparities and implicit bias in the healthcare system. That bill we named the Maternal CARE Act.
With Congresswoman Adams and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, I worked to improve maternal nutrition and expand affordable housing -- (baby cries) -- and to grow our maternal health workforce to include more doulas and midwives so that we can have babies with healthy lungs. (Laughter and applause.) That's a good sign.
In the Senate, I introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act.
And I believe we must create a more community-based approach to maternal healthcare.
I also believe that we must collectively, all of us, speak and name out loud the issues that cause so many women to experience complications and, in many cases, to silently suffer -- which is why I worked with Congresswoman Yvette Clarke to take on the issue of fibroids. Through the Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act, we are addressing an issue that so many women -- and in particular Black women in America -- are dealing with every day.
As many of you know probably know, in fact, Black women are about three times more likely to be hospitalized because of fibroids.
So, all of these topics must be elevated as national priorities. And that is why President Joe Biden and I have waged this fight from the White House.
Last December, our administration convened the first-ever
White House Maternal Health Day of Action. (Applause.)
And we announced a $170 million investment in the private sector on the issue of maternal health.
Last week -- I shared with some of you -- I convened the first-ever Cabinet-level meeting on maternal health. And during that meeting with Secretaries who represent the biggest agencies in our federal government, we discussed the importance -- the importance of seeing and treating women as whole human beings.
We must understand maternal mortality is not only a healthcare issue, it is also a housing issue, a transportation issue, an environmental issue.
Think about it: If mothers don't have a safe and healthy place to live before and after childbirth, they will be at greater risk of adverse outcomes.
If a woman has no means of getting to the hospital for checkups, it will negatively impact her health.
And we know air pollution, water pollution, lead in pipes can be an extremely dangerous -- extremely dangerous circumstance to the health of women and newborns.
If the unique challenges and stressors that women face are not addressed, it will likely increase complications during and after pregnancy.
All of this is then why our administration is taking a whole-of-government approach, including our entire Cabinet, to address this crisis.
At the regional and state-government level, our administration have given states the ability to expand Medicaid coverage -- Medicaid coverage for postpartum women from what it is right now, which is 2 months after giving birth, to a full 12 months after giving birth, which means -- which means that more women will have access for a longer period of time to things like pelvic examinations and vaccines and postpartum depression screening and regular checkups.
In fact, we're pleased to announce that 11 states are now working with our CMS to expand this essential coverage. And we will continue -- and I do it now -- to call on all states to do the same thing and expand Medicaid coverage to 12 months for postpartum care. (Applause.)
And as we work then to expand access to healthcare, we are also working to ensure that care fits the needs of the community. And that is why we are here today -- to lift up the tremendous work that is being done by this group of extraordinary leaders.
Here, at UCSF, at EMBRACE, you have helped build a model for culturally competent care.
You include partners and family members in perinatal care,
through family sessions and trainings. You support patients
for a full year after birth to ensure they are staying safe
and healthy. You have brought together a staff, who I have met -- an extraordinary staff that reflects the community and understands the community you serve.
And there is so much more to do. Our administration
will continue to do everything in our power to make sure these
effective interventions and strategies are adopted far and wide.
And I will talk about the work that you are all doing as I travel our country as a model of what can be done.
As I mentioned to many of you this afternoon, you know, sometimes folks, well, they're clear about what's wrong, they're clear about how they feel, how they're being treated, and what's not working. But the solution sometimes requires the ability to actually see what is possible to know it is possible and then to refer to it to say this is what should happen where I am and where I live.
That's what you all are doing here in being a national model. This is lifting up exactly the design that is necessary to see the kind of outcomes that you all have been producing here on the ground.
So, I thank you for that. I'm very grateful for that.
And I'll end then with this: Women are the pillars of so many families and so many communities. And when women then receive the care they need, by extension it makes families and communities stronger. And I will say to you: It makes
our nation stronger. And that will be the case for years and, with the work you are doing, for generations to come.
So let us all continue to work together to make sure that every woman and every mother in our nation has the care that she needs to thrive, and let us do everything in our power to lift her up knowing that is how we strengthen our entire nation.
I thank you all. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)
Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President on the Administration's Commitment to Improve Maternal Health in San Francisco, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/355512