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UH Doctor Working to Lower Hawai‘i’s High Rate of Maternal Deaths

April 30, 2018, 10:58 AM HST
* Updated April 30, 1:53 PM
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The University of Hawaiʻi announced that a medical school faculty member is working with the state Department of Health and local lawmakers to reduce the number of women dying in Hawaiʻi during childbirth. Mothers in Hawaiʻi—and the United States as a whole—are dying of pregnancy-related complications, or maternal mortality, at higher rates than in any other developed country.

Over the past three decades, nations like Germany and Japan have significantly decreased maternal deaths, while the situation has worsened by 300% in the U.S. In Hawaiʻi, maternal deaths account for five to 15 fatalities every year.

Dr. Scott Harvey. University of Hawai‘i Photo.

In 2016, Hawaiʻi lawmakers mandated a comprehensive study of child and maternal deaths. Scott Harvey, assistant professor and director of residential simulation at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the state’s only obstetric critical care specialist, chairs the Hawaiʻi Department of Health Maternal Mortality Review Committee.

Harvey, who earned his medical degree from JABSOM in 2010, said although there is no clear-cut explanation of why mothers in Hawaiʻi are dying in childbirth, he urged all women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy to seek care from a professional healthcare provider.

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“The unfortunate thing is a lot of the maternal deaths that we’ve seen have had either very minimal or no prenatal care,” said Harvey. “Some [women] didn’t even know they were pregnant.”

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The mortality review committee submitted its second annual report to the Legislature based on reviews conducted in 2017 and continues to meet twice a year to discuss strategies to prevent future maternal deaths.

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