Texas is a (Maternity Care) Desert

Maternity care deserts are on the rise, affecting more than a third of U.S. counties

By Kari Brayman

Maternity care deserts, or areas with limited or no access to maternal health care, are growing throughout the United States. According to a new report by the March of Dimes, up to 6.9 million women live in maternity care deserts, influencing almost 500,000 births across the U.S. 

Since 2000, a decrease in obstetric providers translated into a five percent increase in the number of counties where women face significant barriers to accessing care. In total, 36 percent of counties in the U.S. are considered maternity care deserts. There are many contributors to this lack of access, but in Texas, the main driver is the lack of health insurance. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured women in the country, with an average of 23.3 percent of uninsured women.¹

 

In rural Texas, maternity care deserts make up almost half the state, with 48 percent of counties lacking hospitals, birth centers, or health care providers.²

Some women have to travel over an hour to the nearest hospital, and those that don’t make it to the hospital have been reported to deliver at a rest stop or a parking lot. Staff shortages, cuts in Medicaid and Medicare, and hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients only make matters worse in Texas.³ Fortunately, some community health centers are stepping up to fill the gap and providing quality care to pregnant moms.

Houston is an oasis in the maternity care desert and home to Vitamin Angels’ program partner, Spring Branch Community Health Center (SBCHC). Spring Branch CHC is a federally qualified health center (FQHC) providing quality, affordable healthcare services to the underserved and uninsured communities in the Houston area. SBCHC, a non-profit organization, was developed to reduce disparities by creating a neighborhood-based health center and by providing comprehensive primary health care services that are culturally competent, linguistically appropriate, and client-driven in locations easily accessible by public transportation.

“ We follow the Community Centered Health Home model to make sure that we provide all types of resources within one location. So patients, especially expectant moms, aren’t having to hop around. ” - Marlen Trujillo, CEO, SBCHC

A Vitamin Angels partner since 2014, Spring Branch CHC has grown to distribute over 1100 bottles of multiple micronutrient supplements (prenatal vitamins) annually to help support healthy pregnancies for moms and babies in Texas.

 

Vitamin Angels is working to remove barriers to access for pregnant women and their babies in all 50 states and worldwide. We partner with over 1,200 local organizations, including governments, to reach more than 70 million women and children.

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