- Department of Public Health
Media Contact for Healey-Driscoll administration releases reports on access to maternal health care and essential services in Massachusetts
Omar Cabrera, Manager of Ethnic Media and Community Outreach
Boston — The Healey-Driscoll Administration today released two reports that evaluate access to high-quality health care in Massachusetts, including prenatal and postpartum care, primary care, and behavioral health services, particularly in rural and underserved communities. The recommendations in the reports provide next steps in the evolution of equitable care in Massachusetts.
Following the closure of the obstetrics inpatient service at UMass Memorial Health Care’s Leominster campus on September 23, 2023, Governor Healey ordered a review of maternal health care across the state, with a focus on health equity and health outcomes, as well as a review of regional access to essential services in the North Worcester County area. The reports were produced based on community listening sessions, input from stakeholders, and an extensive data review by the Department of Public Health.
The Review of Maternal Health Services determined that while Massachusetts has no maternal services deserts, as defined by national standards, there are areas for improvement including data collection, regulatory changes, and targeted investments. The Review of Essential Services in the North Worcester County Area found that the area faces challenges common to health care service delivery in rural areas, including staffing and transportation. In addition, the report found opportunities for improved community engagement, more innovative service delivery, workforce investments and more.
“Our administration is grateful to the community members and experts who provided their insights for these reports, which serve as an important guide for our work to protect meaningful access to maternal health care and essential services in our state,” said Governor Maura Healey. “We look forward to turning these recommendations into actions to ensure every community across Massachusetts has access to high-quality health care, especially in rural communities and communities of color.”
“These reports alone are not the solution to ensuring access to maternal health care and essential services,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “They are an important step in the ongoing work of our administration – in collaboration with our communities – to ensure that all our residents can benefit from the world-leading health care we have available in Massachusetts.”
“Ensuring access to high-quality health care for every person in Massachusetts will take continuous effort from our administration and partners, and we’re committed to making it a reality,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh. “These reports help shape our understanding of the challenges that individuals and communities face and give us concrete steps to take for better access to essential services in the North Worcester County area and more equitable maternal health care across Massachusetts.”
“Behind these reports – behind the words, numbers, charts, graphs, and maps – are individuals across our state whose lives intertwine with our health care system every day. They are why we do this work, why we take it to heart and why we will do better,” said Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD. “The conversations we had – some quite challenging – help us understand whether individuals and communities feel embraced and valued or whether they feel sidelined. At listening sessions across the state, we heard many stories, and we are grateful for the honesty and input. As I said at each of the sessions, now it is time to take these stories and turn them into meaningful action that will lift up health care for all.”
Review of Maternal Health Services
The Review of Maternal Health Services provides a comprehensive view into maternal health in Massachusetts – from prenatal care, to birthing centers, to postpartum care – including reproductive and behavioral health care. Building upon the work of the Special Commission to Address Racial Inequities in Maternal Health and the Maternal Health Task Force, the report is informed by a diverse group of maternal health experts from across the state who provided strategic insight into racial inequities and adverse outcomes in maternal health.
The report reveals that Massachusetts does not have any maternal services deserts, though there are ways in which access can improve. DPH plans to create more access in the communities where people live and continue to collect data and stay engaged with these areas about the access to maternal health care.
The report includes recommendations to establish a Fetal Infant Mortality Review Committee; improve data collection related to maternal health; increase access to care delivery services, including telehealth, remote blood pressure monitoring, and group prenatal care; update the hospital and clinic regulation on birth centers to better align with national standards set by the American Association of Birth Centers; create a pathway for doula certification; and invest in home visiting programs, WIC, substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, and contraceptive access.
Review of Essential Services in the North Worcester County Area
Review of Essential Services in the North Worcester County Area focused on access to essential health services in the region, including outpatient services, pharmacies, community health centers, community behavioral health centers, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. As a rural area, there are common challenges to providing care, as well as financial challenges facing providers.
Following community listening sessions and the review of relevant data, DPH determined that there are limited inpatient and outpatient mental health care and substance use disorder facilities, transportation and distance difficulties in the area, and general workforce challenges for staffing facilities in the area.
The report includes recommendations to improve community engagement, increase behavioral health beds in the area, and invest in workforce initiatives to ensure beds are staffed and facilities remain open. The report also identified an opportunity to provide innovative service delivery through options like mobile-integrated health care, reducing the need to travel. DPH will also review the Essential Services Closure process to allow for additional community feedback and transparency around quality and safety of care.