The Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on Wednesday passed the “Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act.” The legislation, which was co-sponsored by Florida Congressman Gus Bilirakis, aims to utilize data mapping to identify areas where poor maternal health rates overlap with low broadband access.
The goal, reads a statement from Bilirakis’s office, is to then utilize this information to deploy telehealth services more effectively.
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According to the latest America’s Health Rankings report, Florida saw a maternal mortality rate of 26.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2019. This rate is above the national average of 20.1 deaths per 100,000 and an increase from Florida’s 2018 rate of 15.8 deaths per 100,000.
Maternal health challenges can be particularly prevalent in rural areas. The March of Dimes’ 2020 report on maternity care deserts finds that more than 2.2 million women of childbearing age live in maternity care deserts across the country. This equates to 1,095 counties where there are no hospitals offering obstetric care, no birth centers, and no obstetric providers.
In Florida, counties designated as maternity care deserts include Hendry, Glades, Gulf, and Baker, among others.
The Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act specifically directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to incorporate maternal health outcomes into its most recently available broadband health maps.
No more than a year after the bill is enacted, the legislation directs the Comptroller General to submit a study to Congress detailing the effectiveness of internet connectivity in reducing maternal morbidity rates.
“We need to use every tool at our disposal to improve health outcomes for moms and babies. Including this information into our broadband mapping will help us achieve this goal and ensure these moms get the prenatal care they deserve,” said Congressman Bilirakis.