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Why are Moms Healthier in Australia? WHAMglobal Investigates

WHAMglobal’s Australia study group included JHF staff as well as local and national leaders in women’s health, healthcare delivery, finance, and policy.

Women's Health Activist Movement Global (WHAMglobal) is committed to identifying the root causes of maternal mortality and supporting mothers and families through the entirety of their care. When it comes to improving maternal health outcomes, Australia provides ample inspiration. 

Women's Health Activist Movement Global (WHAMglobal) is committed to identifying the root causes of maternal mortality and supporting mothers and families through the entirety of their care. When it comes to improving maternal health outcomes, Australia provides ample inspiration.

WHAMglobal brought gifts: Australia-themed vests, similar to those worn by partners in Pittsburgh who raised awareness about maternal health during a recent March for Moms event. Pictured are (L-R): Belinda Brooks, a doula from the Australian Doula College; WHAMglobal study tour member Jennifer Moore, PhD, RN, executive director of the Institute for Medicaid Innovation; and Renee Adair, founder and director of the Australian Doula College.

Compared to women in the U.S., Australian women live longer, spend less on health care, and receive exemplary maternal health services and supports. Australia's high-quality maternal care system is a key reason why its maternal mortality rate (5.5 deaths per 100,000 women, according to 2015 study published in The Lancet) is nearly five times lower than the rate in the U.S. (26.4 deaths per 100,000 women). 

To learn more, WHAMglobal recently organized a two-week Australian study tour to meet with women's health experts in the healthcare and university systems, conduct site visits, and participate in the International Women's Forum (IWF) Cornerstone Conference in Melbourne.

The WHAMglobal group that traveled to Australia featured JHF staff as well as local and national leaders in women's health, healthcare delivery, finance, and policy, including Carmen Anderson, MA, director of equity and social justice at The Heinz Endowments; Carole Bailey, CPA, treasurer of the JHF Board of Trustees and owner of Bailey Management Consulting; Chloe Bird, PhD, a senior sociologist at the RAND Corporation; Debra Caplan, MPA, chair of the WHAMglobal Board of Directors, vice-chair of the JHF Board of Trustees, and interim CEO of Partner4Work; JHF Women's Health Specialist Kate Dickerson, MSc.; JHF President and CEO and WHAMglobal founder Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD; Shelley Hirshberg, MA, ambassador for the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement's HealthDoers Network; Ruby Holloway, MD, FACOG, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas; JHF Program Manager Mara Leff, MPH; Rhonda Moore Johnson, MD, MPH, senior medical director of medical management and quality at Highmark, Inc.; Jennifer Moore, PhD, RN, executive director of the Institute for Medicaid Innovation; Alan Weil, JD, MPP, editor-in-chief for Health Affairs; and JHF COO/CPO Nancy Zionts, MBA.

(L-R): Debra Caplan, MPA, chair of the WHAMglobal Board of Directors, vice-chair of the JHF Board of Trustees, and interim CEO of Partner4Work; the Honorable Kate Warner AC, governor of Tasmania; and JHF President and CEO and WHAMglobal founder Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD. The WHAMglobal study group attended a reception hosted by Warner that preceded the 2018 International Women’s Forum Cornerstone Conference.

During meetings and site visits in New Castle, Melbourne, Sydney, and Tasmania, the WHAMglobal study group learned more about how Australia achieves better maternal health outcomes than the U.S. while delivering culturally-appropriate care. The WHAMglobal group visited leading providers, researchers, activists from maternal and child healthfocused organizations, including the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality, Australian Doula College, Healthy Mothers Healthy Families, MUM for MUM (a homebased maternity care program), New South Wales Agency for Clinical Innovation, New South Wales Ministry of Health, Royal Hospital for Women, Royal Women's Hospital, St. John of God Mother Baby Unit and Perinatal Mental Health Research Unit, and Women's Australian Atlas of Health Variation. The group also had the pleasure of meeting with the Honorable Kate Warner AC, governor of Tasmania, and IWF cofounder Helen Rule.

The WHAMglobal group learned that midwives, doulas, and community health workers are vital components of Australia's maternal health system, and that Australia looks to proactively address potential problems. At multiple points during pregnancy, mothers receive a thorough assessment and are assigned a risk level that activates needed physical, mental, and social services. Postpregnancy, mothers receive a new assessment and risk level to best support the family unit.

"Australia has an impressive, comprehensive view of pregnancy, protecting both mother and baby— before delivery, during delivery, and after delivery," Dr. Feinstein says. "When they find risk, they wrap services around the family unit. They also emphasize the importance of, and actively foster, the mother-baby relationship. This study tour will serve as a catalyst for WHAMglobal's mission to address our nation's maternal and infant mortality crisis and advance maternity care which achieves the outstanding outcomes of Australia."
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Monday, August 19, 2019