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Taking action to improve the health of Arkansas moms and babies


We are experiencing a maternal health crisis. The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth also negatively impact the health of infants. March of Dimes, the leading organization fighting for improvements for the health of moms and babies, gave the U.S. a D+ for its rate of preterm births which are the leading cause of infant deaths nationwide. There is urgency to act.
Unfortunately, the organization gives Arkansas even worse marks, which is one reason for the recent increase in activity and engagement on this issue locally and statewide. Now, we’re generating momentum to help moms have healthy pregnancies and provide babies with the best start to life.
In February, I joined Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Congressman French Hill in hosting a roundtable on maternal health and the need to improve outcomes for mothers and newborns.
We heard from Natural State doctors who are on the frontlines of this emergency. It’s clear a comprehensive approach is needed to make significant progress and ultimately save lives.
Bringing advocates together was a positive step for collaboration on improving health outcomes in communities across our state. We have a will to solve this issue and it’s time for action.
Just days ago, the governor issued an executive order creating the Strategic Committee for Maternal Health. The group is tasked with crafting a statewide plan to reverse the trends and improve outcomes. This effort will help identify how we can connect expectant moms to resources and pinpoint gaps in care to better serve their prenatal and postpartum needs.

I’m pleased to support this effort and advance policies to improve research, education and funding toward better maternal health outcomes. In Washington, I’m championing legislation to invest in further study and intervention activities to reduce premature birth and infant mortality.
The Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early (PREEMIE) Reauthorization Act of 2023 has bipartisan support. The House of Representatives advanced this legislation last year and I am encouraging my Senate colleagues to pass it so we can continue conducting critical research in this area.
In early March, the House of Representatives approved the Preventing Maternal Deaths Reauthorization Act of 2023. I’m proud to back the Senate companion so we can continue to support the work of Arkansas and other states to understand and promote measures that reduce maternal mortalities by reauthorizing state-led Maternal Mortality Review Committees that comprehensively analyze the deaths of women within the first year of their pregnancy. Our state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee and its counterparts play a key role in compiling and evaluating relevant data, an integral component to identifying solutions. This measure would bolster that vital work.
March of Dimes advocates recently gathered on Capitol Hill to encourage the Senate to advance both bills. I’m proud to advocate with them for initiatives that enhance the health of mothers and infants. I was honored to accept the organization’s March for Change Champion Award that recognizes bipartisan efforts in Congress to positively impact the lives of pregnant women and their families.
The good news is there is a sincere motivation in Arkansas to meet the needs of expecting and new moms. State, federal and non-profit entities are ready to work together to improve maternal and infant health outcomes in each of our communities. We know healthy moms mean healthy babies, so together we will continue to pursue that goal enthusiastically.