How HR can help employees living in the maternity care desert

America’s maternal health crisis continues to worsen, with far too many women struggling to find necessary maternity care. This problem is most serious in “maternity care deserts” – areas without hospitals, birth centers or obstetricians. Recent research from the March of Dimes has found that these deserts are expanding, with millions of women actively struggling to find quality maternity care.

The impact of this crisis is not limited to individual women and their families. Its consequences are far-reaching, affecting communities, businesses and the wider economy. For example, a lack of access to essential maternity care increases the risk of complications before, during and after childbirth. It also leads to higher healthcare costs. This puts more pressure on women, children, healthcare systems and other caregivers to find answers to seemingly impossible challenges.

The state of maternal health in numbers

The US maternal health data paints a bleak picture for millions of potential mothers.

Research estimates that approximately 2.2 million women of reproductive age live in maternity care deserts. These regions, which cover as many as 1,119 of America’s counties, do not have sufficient facilities and providers to serve expectant mothers. And since 2020, these maternal care deserts have grown by 2%.

As a result, nearly 500,000 births take place every year in locations where essential medical support is not readily available, putting the health of mothers and babies at risk.

But it is important to recognize that access to maternity care is an issue that extends beyond these deserts. In fact, the number of provinces with limited or no maternity care has increased by 5% since 2020. And unfortunately, this growing gap in access to health care has an especially serious impact on rural and underserved areas.

Clearly, it is essential that policymakers, healthcare providers and community leaders work together and take swift and decisive action to address these disparities. But employers also have a role to play.

How deserts in maternity care affect workers and employers

Maternity care deserts have major consequences for both employees and employers, but in different ways.

For workers, maternity care deserts lead to an inevitable increase in health risks and stress due to missed prenatal care and the challenges of managing pregnancies without local support. This not only endangers women’s health (and increases the costs associated with paying for their health care), but also poses a serious threat to the health of their children.

What is at stake for employers? Combined, these factors undermine attendance, engagement and productivity at work. The impact of rising healthcare coverage costs, more frequent absences, lower productivity and potentially higher employee turnover can be staggering.

For many organizations, these dire consequences may not seem like an immediate threat. Either way, employers play a critical role in mitigating these issues to ensure a vibrant, healthy workforce in the future.

7 ways employers can help employees living in maternity care deserts

Maternity care problems seem to be an enormous, complex challenge. What can employers do to actually make a difference? Here are some options organizations can advocate for. One or more of these can lead to positive outcomes for individuals and for your company, as well as for the community as a whole:

1. Extensive support for maternity care

The benefits of providing comprehensive maternity care will likely outweigh the costs. This is why you want to conduct a thoughtful analysis that takes into account both tangible and intangible factors. Consider what it will take to cover everything from antenatal to postnatal care, including financial and logistical support for services outside employees’ local areas. To do this right, it can be beneficial to talk to brokers or expert advisors who can help you weigh the different options, especially if you have employees who are currently struggling to find care.

2. Support telehealth services

Telehealth has proven its worth during the pandemic. However, it remains a lifeline to healthcare for people living in remote areas, for people with disabilities and for those with limited access to transport. You’ll want to integrate these services into your health care plans so that employees don’t have to travel extensively when they need to see medical specialists. While telehealth itself is not a comprehensive solution, it can reduce the burden of critical care.

3. Flexible working arrangements

Flexibility is crucial for expectant mothers in general, but especially for workers who have to travel further to get the care they need. It helps to offer telecommuting, flexible schedules and part-time work options that accommodate medical needs while reducing unnecessary stress beyond standard legal obligations.

4. Maternity Concierge Services

These types of services help employees navigate health care options and manage pregnancy-related administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments and understanding benefits. This service can literally be a lifesaver as regular medical checkups, both pre- and post-natal, are crucial for detecting, managing and properly solving health problems.

5. Lifestyle Spending Accounts (LSAs)

LSAs are employer-sponsored accounts that employees can use for a variety of wellness needs, including expenses not covered by traditional health insurance, such as doula services or travel for medical care. This can be critical to the unpredictable needs of workers in maternity care deserts, who may have to choose different types of support. For example, some may need coverage for treatment of postpartum depression and anxiety. Some may need access to community organizations that provide resources and support before, during, and after birth. Others may need other specialized services that are not available in their area. LSA funds make it easier to provide more personalized tools.

6. Educational programs

Educating employees about maternity care helps them make informed decisions about their health. This kind of education is critical for people in maternity care deserts. Programs may cover topics such as nutrition during pregnancy, self-care practices for mothers, how to find medical support in areas with fewer options, and how to plan for the unexpected when care is unavailable nearby.

7. Advocacy and policy change

While this may make some employers uncomfortable, you may want to advocate for legislative changes that improve access to maternity care. For example, you can proactively support expanded Medicaid coverage after childbirth or increased funding for maternal health programs. By making lawmakers aware of the impact their agenda has on individuals, communities and organizations, you can make a difference. Additionally, when you send a message to government decision makers, you are also telling existing employees and the broader community that you are investing in their well-being.

By taking some of these steps, you can provide people with much-needed practical help at a critical time in their lives, while helping to solve this enormous healthcare challenge. It may feel like a small contribution, but every employer who takes a proactive stance promotes healthier outcomes for individual employees, their families, their communities and our nation as a whole.

How employers can make a meaningful impact

The deepening maternal health crisis, especially in maternity care deserts, requires action not only from healthcare providers but also from employers. By committing to a relevant course of action, companies can dramatically impact health outcomes for expectant mothers and set better standards for corporate public health responsibility.

Employers’ proactive efforts can drive the systemic changes needed to make maternity care accessible and equitable for all women, regardless of location or socioeconomic status. By dedicating resources to these initiatives, we are investing in a healthier future for our workforce and society, while highlighting the critical role that community and businesses play in supporting stronger families.

Post views: 10

Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top