May 2, 2024 - News

What they're saying: Medical professionals' dreams for maternal health

a lightbulb with a glowing medical cross filament

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

This year's NWA Health Summit took place all day yesterday in Fayetteville and honed in maternal health care in Arkansas.

Why it matters: Arkansas' maternal mortality rate has doubled the national average in recent years.

  • Arkansas had the second-highest infant mortality rate in the country in 2021, with 8.59 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the CDC.

During a panel with doctors and a midwife, moderator Nirvana Manning, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UAMS, asked participants how they would improve maternal health if they had unlimited resources.

  • Here's what made the top of their lists.

Everyone would have the same childbirth and prenatal education classes offered through their clinics early on in their pregnancies, said SaraBeth Askins, maternal fetal medicine specialist at Baptist Health in Fort Smith.

"Even before people are pregnant, I would actually just revamp our whole food-system industry in this country because our young kids are eating so much processed garbage food and it's everywhere," said Dr. Serena Pierson, an OB-GYN at Willow Creek Women's Clinic in Johnson.

  • Unhealthy diets and lifestyle habits like not exercising are often to blame for chronic diseases.

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