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VP Harris: Treat women as 'whole human being' to cut maternal mortality

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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at Black maternal health Cabinet meeting Wednesday in the Ceremonial Room at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI<br> | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/0212ec410754e412c7957cd3248eb2cb/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at Black maternal health Cabinet meeting Wednesday in the Ceremonial Room at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
| License Photo

April 13 (UPI) -- Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday said it's important for women to be treated "as a whole human being" in order to cut down on maternal mortality in the United States during a Cabinet meeting on the issue at the White House.

She said it was the first time any U.S. presidential administration has convened a Cabinet meeting to address maternal health, particularly for women of color.

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The meeting highlights Black Maternal Health Week, which brings attention to statistics showing challenges Black women face during childbirth and efforts to address those concerns.

"We know that in the United States of America, Black women are three times more likely to die in connection with childbirth; Native women twice as likely; rural women one and a half times likely," Harris said.

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"What we also know is that this is an issue that is not just about healthcare, it is about treating a woman as a whole human being, understanding that if we are to expect and actually influence positive outcomes on this issue, we must see her then as a whole human being, which is why we have gathered the leaders that are here today so that we can address issues such as the issue of housing ... so we can address issues such as transportation, such as nutrition, which all have an impact on not only the experience that she will have and, therefore, her family will have, but also generational impact."

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Harris announced that the Department of Health and Human Services is creating a new designation to mark hospitals and healthcare providers that are doing well on birthing issues "and, by inference, point out those who have more work to do."

She said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will convene a meeting of private and public sector representatives in the healthcare industry to discuss maternal health and set goals for how it can be improved.

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The Health Resources and Services Administration will also facilitate $16 million in maternal care and early childhood grants to encourage "better practices and good outcomes," Harris said.

The White House highlighted that agencies that have not historically had a role in addressing maternal health participated in the meeting.

"Ahead of the meeting with Cabinet officials, the administration is following up with additional actions to address maternal health, and to combat the systemic inequities that lead to worse maternal outcomes for Black, Native American, and rural women."

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The White House said 11 additional states and Washington, D.C., have asked to extend Medicaid and CHIP coverage for 12 months after pregnancy under the American Rescue Plan to address maternal issues.

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Harris remarked on "how fantastic that is going to be when we continue to grow those numbers and what that will mean for the women and their families that are affected by this issue."

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