NIHCM Newsletter / September 2023

Maternal & Reproductive Health

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CDC Study: Mohamoud YA, Cassidy E, Fuchs E, et al. Vital Signs: Maternity Care Experiences — United States, April 2023. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2023;72:961–967. DOI:

Maternal & Reproductive Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released survey results on the mistreatment and discrimination experienced by pregnant women, disproportionately affecting Black, Hispanic, and multiracial women. Black women are less likely to carry a pregnancy to term compared to other racial groups and face higher rates of infant mortality. Maternal health remains a critical public health issue in the US as maternal mortality rates continue to worsen.

  • Mistreatment & Discrimination: The survey results highlight instances of reported mistreatment and discrimination, with women recounting privacy violations, neglect, and even physical abuse by health care providers. About 45% of women reported holding back from asking questions or discussing concerns with their provider.
  • Mental Health: About one in five mothers in the US have an anxiety or mood disorder. The Food and Drug Administration approved the first oral drug for the treatment of postpartum depression. It is important to recognize postpartum depression isn’t exclusive to women, as fathers can also experience it.
  • Reproductive Health: The FDA’s recent approval of the first daily oral contraceptive for purchase without a prescription is a notable milestone. An underlying challenge to reproductive health persists - a KFF survey underscored the prevalence of misinformation around contraceptive methods among Americans.

Resources & Initiatives:

COVID Updates

There has been a recent uptick in COVID hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks in the US. Some schools and hospitals have re-imposed mask requirements and canceled classes to reduce the spread of COVID. About 17% of the population has received the bivalent booster. Shots formulated for omicron subvarient XBB.1.5 are expected to be available mid-September.

  • Variants: Omicron subvariant EG.5 is the dominant variant in the US, but experts do not consider it a substantial threat. Another subvariant BA.2.86 is highly mutated but early findings suggest it is not a variant of concern. BA.2.86 has been detected in the US.
  • Hospitalizations: While hospitalizations have been rising, rates of hospitalized COVID patients are at historic lows. Compared to the same time the past two years, hospitalization rates are 2.5 times lower than last year and about 5.5 times lower than 2021.

Resources & Initiatives:

The Threat of Fires, Heat, & Hurricanes to Our Health

Intense heat, fires, and now hurricanes have pummeled the US this summer, threatening both physical and mental health. A recent study by the CDC found that asthma-associated emergency department visits were 17% higher than expected during the 19 days of Canadian wildfire smoke this summer.

Resources & Initiatives:

In Other Public Health News…

Obesity Drugs
As weight loss drugs, such as Wegovy or Ozempic, grow in popularity, questions about their effectiveness, pricing and potential downsides are being raised. Weight loss drugs are significantly more expensive in the US than other nations. There is also research on the drugs’ potential to address addiction.

Food as Medicine
In a new study, “prescribing” fruits and vegetables improved health conditions. Elevance Health Foundation encourages the use of food as medicine and is supporting access to nutritious food. A Health Affairs article highlights the challenges to the effectiveness of implementing a food as medicine plan.

AI & Health Care
Hospitals are looking at AI as a tool to fight provider burnout. Some health care workers are concerned about the role of AI and its potential to exacerbate issues in care, such as bias. STAT recently released a Generative AI Tracker to monitor the evolving adoption for the technology in health care.

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