Florida lawmakers target minority maternal health in Duval County

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TALLAHASSEE – Florida lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to a bill (HB 1381) that would establish pilot programs in Duval and Orange counties aimed at improving maternal health outcomes for minority women.

The programs would be required to use telehealth to coordinate with prenatal home-visiting programs to provide services and education to pregnant women and to provide training to health-care professionals.

The House and Senate both unanimously passed the bill Wednesday, sending it to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Sponsored by Rep. Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee, the bill would add maternal health-care programs to a list of programs eligible for “Closing the Gap” funding from the Department of Health. Closing the Gap funds are directed at reducing racial and ethnic health-care disparities.

According to a legislative staff analysis, about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications. The national maternal mortality rate is 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, with the mortality rate of black women disproportionately high.

As of 2018, the maternal mortality rate in Florida was below the national average, with 16.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. If the bill is signed by DeSantis, it would take effect July 1.