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Mike Bloomberg's plan for the maternal health crisis looks familiar

[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

As a latecomer to the 2020 presidential race, Democratic hopeful Mike Bloomberg has some catching up to do. Many of the other candidates have spent more than a year rolling out their policy plans, including proposals on how to solve America's crisis of rising maternal mortality rate, particularly among African American mothers.

This week Bloomberg jumped on that admirable bandwagon, announcing his maternal mortality crisis initiatives in Montgomery, Alabama.

"In the greatest and wealthiest country in the world, we cannot accept the disgraceful racial inequality in maternal health care that exists in Alabama and across the country," the former mayor of New York said in a press release. "As president, I will make ending that inequality and improving health care for African American women a top priority—and the plan I am announcing today will help us do it."

Maternal health care needs to be a priority for politicians at all levels because black women in America are 3-4 times more likely to die after childbirth than white women. Late in 2018, the president signed the bipartisan Preventing Maternal Deaths Act into law, expanding funding for programs to review why so many women are dying.

And in late 2019 President Trump signed a bill funding a Maternal Mental Health Interagency Task Force. It will see The Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency create a task force of various federal agencies and will detail the roles each agency can play in addressing maternal mental health in a report expected in June 2020.

That is just a few months before America will decide its next President, and most of the Democratic presidential hopefuls want to see even more done to address the maternal health crisis. They've mentioned the issue on the debate stage and on the campaign trail.

Kamala Harris is out of the race now, but her efforts during her run for the presidency included the reintroduction of her 2018 Maternal CARE Act, aiming to create grants to ensure black mothers have access to maternal care and that healthcare providers are trained to avoid the kind of bias that can kill black mothers. Like Harris, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have been very vocal about the issue, and both have written op-eds for Essence magazine detailing their plans.

Former Vice President Joe Biden says his plan for America would follow California's lead. While the rest of the country has seen maternal mortality increase in recent years, California has seen its overall maternal mortality drop by 55% between 2006 to 2013 (but black moms are still at an increased risk there).

Andrew Yang's health care plan includes investing "in implicit bias training for healthcare providers to ensure Black women receive life-saving maternal care," and full coverage of all maternity costs.

Pete Buttigieg's plan for improving rural health care includes the expansion of mothers' Medicaid coverage one year postpartum (it is currently 60 days), and Senator Bernie Sanders has explained that he intends to address racial disparities in maternal health care through Medicare For All. In a statement to SELF, his campaign explained that if elected, Sanders' would "require the Department of Health to conduct an evaluation of health disparities, including racial and geographic disparities, and to submit a plan to Congress for addressing the disparities found in the evaluation."

Bloomberg's newly released plan includes requiring doctors to undergo training to understand and fight implicit bias in medicine. It will standardize maternal mortality collection at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and use the data to establish programs that will help clinicians to identify risks. It provides a free public option insurance plan for low-income women who live in states (like Alabama) that haven't expanded Medicaid and are currently only able to get coverage for 60 days after giving birth. The billionaire also plans to expand funding for medical schools at historically black colleges and universities, and to offer loan repayment for doctors who choose to practice in underserved areas of the country.

The details of each candidates' plans are different, but they don't differ very much from each other in their mission—and that's a great sign. If they can agree that America's mothers need change, hopefully we can get closer to achieving it.

In This Article

    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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