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‘Maternal care deserts’ impact Indiana’s expectant mothers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Support services for expectant mothers are expected to feel some strain in light of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Minority, low-income and rural families could feel the strain the most.

Of Indiana’s 92 counties, more than a quarter of them are considered “maternal care deserts,” meaning there is little to no maternal health support. But when you focus in on specific neighborhoods and ZIP codes, the disparities often run deeper.

Indiana has some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the nation, and the health support resources also lag behind, giving our state a D+ grade, according to the March of Dimes state report card.

Lynn Baldwin with Goodwill’s Nurse Family Partnership said, “We know that it’s a need and it’s been a need for a while, and that’s why we’re in the space. We really want to make an impact.”

When looking at the state map, rural communities see huge gaps in services. Poverty, substance abuse, and transportation issues often multiple the problems. Goodwill’s Nurse Family Partnership, after 10 years, still sends health providers on in-home visits to areas in need.

“Because we are in 35 counties in the state, we serve rural areas as well, and the maternal health care deserts are rural,” Baldwin said.

United Healthcare joined with Project Swaddle. A program initiated by firefighters and emergency medical services in Crawsfordsville is helping Montgomery County to address its pockets of “maternal care deserts.” Paul Miller and his crew go to places in Montgomery County to find out what’s happening, said Keith Mason with United Healthcare.

Data from the March of Dimes shows 43 Indiana counties have access to maternal care; 12 counties show moderate access. On the low end, 25 counties are “maternal care deserts,” and 12 have low maternal access.

“There’s always going to be more need than there is capacity to address that. I think we can prioritize it,” Mason said.

Minority communities in Marion County and other large urban areas often face the same challenges as people living in rural parts of Indiana.

Earlier this year, United Healthcare launched a mobile health initiative to further address disparities. So far, it travels in two rural communities and in low-income communities in Indianapolis.