ATLANTA — The number of maternity care deserts in Georgia is climbing -- and could be a significant contributing factor to the number of mothers dying from childbirth.
Since 1994, 41 labor and delivery units have shut down across the state of Georgia, according to a Capital B analysis of data from Georgia’s Obstetrical and Gynecological society. This has created maternity care deserts in Georgia.
A maternity care desert is defined by March of Dimes as a county without a hospital or birth center offering obstetric care and without any obstetric providers.
In Georgia, about 35% of the state's counties are considered to be maternity care deserts by the March of Dimes.
The map above shows several counties surrounding Atlanta’s metro area fall into maternity care deserts.
Margo Snipe with Capital B led the analysis of the data and said her research shows racial disparities when it comes to the location of this lack of care.
“The data analysis found that more than a quarter of Black folks in Georgia live in counties with little to no access to maternity care, and that it’s systemic because almost half of Black counties are considered deserts compared to a third of white counties," Snipe explained.
She also pointed to the data when adding that since 1994, more labor and delivery units have closed in counties made up of a majority Black population.
"Twice the number of labor and delivery units have opened in white counties, ” Snipe said.
Anna Adams with the Georgia Hospital Association confirmed that there aren’t any plans as of yet to open up new facilities in these maternity care deserts. Adams says getting care to Georgia’s rural areas is a challenge but that the association is supporting legislation like SB 106 also known as the "Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Act” which would provide coverage for remote maternal health clinical services under the Medicaid program.
The Georgia Department of Public Health says a new report including new data on maternal health in the state of Georgia is expected to be released soon.