During the past several weeks, you would be hard-pressed not to find an article about the dismal maternal mortality rates in this country. In fact, it was a study published in our very own Green Journal that sparked the latest national conversation (with Texas at the epicenter) about why the most modern, industrialized country in the world is failing so miserably at reducing the numbers of deaths associated with pregnancy and childbirth. However, the truth of the matter is, we already know why.
“The greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.” ~Jonas Salk
This past Tuesday I was awarded a great opportunity to do more: I became ACOG’s 67th President. As the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do more and be empowered to make a difference in health care.
When I began my presidency, I ventured that we can make a difference in the next generation of health care through three main initiatives: global health, advocacy and new resident education models.
A woman dies from pregnancy or childbirth every two minutes. Almost all of these deaths (99%) are in developing countries. The most heartbreaking part is that the vast majority of these deaths are preventable.
As the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women, ACOG strongly advocates for quality health care for women – everywhere.
That’s why, in an effort to demonstrate the urgency of global action to protect maternal health and rights, ACOG recognizes today as the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights.
When I assumed the presidency in May, I promised to work on behalf of our patients, our doctors and ACOG. Not quite halfway through a very busy year, I wanted to give you a progress report on my activities.
Who will Care for America’s Women?
The results are in: not only are high professional liability premiums impacting ob-gyn practices around the country, but the fear of lawsuits is limiting women’s access to health care. Data from the 2015 ACOG Survey on Professional Liability confirms an enduring negative liability environment, with nearly 50% of ob-gyns surveyed making changes to their practice as a result of the risk or fear of professional liability claims or litigation. Notably, nearly 40% of ob-gyns have made changes to their practice because of the unavailability or unaffordability of professional liability insurance. Unfortunately, these practice changes are having a negative impact on the women we treat. Results of the survey showed that too often, ob-gyns have been forced to decrease the number of high-risk obstetric patients they see and/or limited the gynecological surgical procedures they offer. This leads me to the question: If this doesn’t change, who will deliver America’s babies? Who will care for America’s women?
Serving as ACOG President is indeed an honor. It is also a significant responsibility involving accountability to the 58,000 members who pay dues to our organization. We are the premier organization advocating for obstetrics and gynecology and women’s health care. As ACOG members, we are above all things dedicated to striving for and preserving our reputation of excellence, our credibility and our integrity in the pursuit of the best in women’s health care delivery.
This has been an interesting and exciting year for me to say the very least. The meetings, the travel, the interactions with other medical societies, and advocacy efforts were all expected. Yes, there have been challenges, conflicts, resolutions, and clearly, many positive accomplishments. However, I did not expect that almost every waking hour would include some activity related to ACOG.
Maternal deaths related to childbirth in the United States have been rising in the past decade. According to a 2014 report published in The Lancet, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is now more than double the rate in Saudi Arabia and Canada, and more than triple the rate in the United Kingdom.
To address this trend, ACOG and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) recently issued Levels of Maternal Care, the first consensus document establishing levels of care for perinatal and postnatal women. It is the second document in the joint ACOG and SMFM Obstetric Care Consensus series.
Workforce issues in women’s healthcare continue to be a primary concern for ACOG.
A recent survey of 20,088 physicians conducted by the Physicians Foundation, a non-profit research organization, found that increasing workloads, regulatory requirements, and other changes in the healthcare system are prompting physicians to make career changes. It found that 81% of physicians described themselves as either overextended or at full capacity. Although these findings are not specific to our specialty of obstetrics and gynecology, it can be assumed that many ACOG Fellows have similar opinions.
November 9-15 is National Nurse Practitioner Week, an event designed to recognize the contributions that nurse practitioners (NPs) make to our health care system. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), there are more than 192,000 NPs practicing in the US today, approximately 8% of whom focus on women’s health.