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What did fmr. US surgeon general and WISH med. expert say about maternal deaths

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The WISH-TV medical expert and a former U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams talked Thursday about two major health stories: maternal deaths, and the smoking rate in Indiana.

Maternal deaths

A new report shows maternal deaths during pregnancy or after childbirth more than doubled across the United States in the past 20 years, and Black mothers died at the highest rates.

Adams said, “I raised alarm about this back in 2020 with a call to action. I put out when I was surgeon general and, as you mentioned, we talked about it just a few weeks ago around the unfortunate death of Olympic sprinter Tori Bowie, highlighting the disproportionate impact of maternal mortality on Black women

“This new report just underscores the fact that among wealthy nations, the United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality and common causes for this include unhealthy weight, excessive bleeding or hemorrhage infection, heart disease, but also mental health issues like suicide and drug overdoses.”

He said health professionals consistently say that the reasons “lie in the fact that we consistently underinvest in social services, in primary care, and in mental health.”

Indiana was among the worst states, and the report showed jumps in deaths for white and Hispanic women more than doubled in 20 years. 

The report, he said, also found as many as 80% of the maternal deaths in the United States were preventable.

Adams said Indiana had the highest rate in the nation of increase for white mothers and for Hispanic mothers

He said communities need to “focus on creating environments that are supportive of women’s health and that are tailored to local needs and local challenges.”

‘Tobacco nation’

A report by the group Truth Initiative puts Indiana as one of 12 states in the so-called “tobacco nation,” where 50% of residents are more likely to smoke than elsewhere. The group of states is home to about 21% of the U.S. population but 28% of smokers in the country.

Adams called the numbers “frustrating, but they’re not surprising.” He said 1 in 5 Hoosiers are smokers.

“An average smoker in Indiana goes through about 53 packs of cigarettes in one year compared to an average of about 30 packs in the rest of the United States, which adds up to a difference of about 500 cigarettes per person per year.”

As surgeon general, he said, he noted that certain populations — rural communities, Black and brown communities, people with mental health issues and those in the LGBTQ communities — smoke at higher rates.

“We also know that Indiana has some of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation, and this directly correlates with smoking rates,” Adams said.

The former surgeon general also talked about reports that came out during his tenure.

“But the key is less than a third use cessation medications approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) or behavioral counseling to support those quit attempts. So, we need to help people understand the resources that are available, and we need public policies like smoke-free air laws and higher tobacco taxes, and the quit line. If you’re interested in quitting smoking, you can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW now for additional support.”

This story was created from live video aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.