How Review to Action Is a Catalyst for MCH Success to Improve Maternal Mortality Rates
August 2017

Michael Warren
President of the Board of Directors
Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs

If you ever took organic chemistry, you probably learned about catalysts. Without getting too into the weeds (and apologies to any chemistry majors out there), catalysts help move a process along. In some cases, the process might not happen at all without the catalyst, or it might happen at a much slower rate.

In the world of maternal and child health (MCH), catalysts can come in many forms. An individual family’s story might prompt the passage of a particular rule or law. A report might generate interest in a topic that results in the development of a new program. An idea or program may be in fledgling form, and technical assistance at just the right time can help move the process along and bring it to fruition. Such was the case for the establishment of a maternal mortality review committee (MMRC) in Tennessee in 2015.

For a few years prior to 2015, numerous partners — including public health professionals, health care providers, and our state perinatal quality collaborative — had been discussing the establishment of an MMRC. However, there was no law providing the authority to do so. Then in 2015, a state representative introduced legislation that would require our state health department to publicly report maternal mortality statistics. This legislation served as a catalyst for the movement that had been crystalizing over the preceding years. Through a series of conversations, we quickly found ourselves working with the sponsor to amend the proposed legislation to authorize a full MMRC, rather than to just require the posting of summary statistics.

Another important catalyst in this process was technical assistance from the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) during the amendment of this bill. We could have independently researched various state laws and contacted individual Title V program directors across the country to learn from their experiences. But fortunately, we had key contacts at AMCHP and CDC who were already working with other states and who were quickly able to identify best practices, suggest model legislative language, and provide input on how best to structure our MMRC. They greatly accelerated our progress and provided expert input that strengthened our legislative proposal.

The end result was that our state legislature passed legislation authorizing a robust MMRC, and we even were provided with funding for a staff position to manage the process!

The ability to catalyze similar successes in other states has just been enhanced with the launch of the Review to Action website. AMCHP developed this site, in partnership with the CDC and the CDC Foundation, and with funding from the Merck for Mothers initiative.

The website is divided into three main sections:

  • LEARN: Find out more about maternal mortality in the United States and about maternal mortality reviews.
  • IMPLEMENT: Explore tools that you can use to make your MMRC more effective.
  • CONNECT: Engage colleagues across the country through discussion boards and sharing of resources.

Whether you are seeking support resources for an established MMRC or you need additional help in getting your MMRC started, the Review to Action site can be a catalyst for you.