Fighting Maternal Mortality with Better Data and a Powerful Partnership

March 2021
Topics: Data (General), Decision Analysis, Decision Support (General), Public Health (General)
MITRE’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Interactive Dashboard—expanded in both capacity and reach—unleashes new opportunities to address the inequities in maternal health. Our collaboration with the March of Dimes promises even more impact.
A smiling mother holding her newborn baby in a hospital

What began in 2018 as an initiative to research our nation’s alarming maternal mortality rate has grown exponentially. Now with enhanced functionality, MITRE’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Interactive Dashboard (3MID) is providing new insights into the impact of the social determinants of health on maternal mortality and serious illness (morbidity).   

It’s also inspired a new partnership with March of Dimes, the nation’s leading nonprofit fighting for the health of all moms and babies.  

Together, MITRE and March of Dimes are addressing the devastating fact that the United States “is among the most dangerous developed nations in which to give birth”—a reality particularly true for vulnerable populations. Non-Hispanic Black women remain three to four times more likely to suffer from maternal death or morbidity than white women.

MITRE’s development of the data-driven dashboard and partnership with March of Dimes aim to improve maternal health outcomes. A key partnership goal involves integrating the dashboard within March of Dimes’ PeriStats tool. This public-facing website provides open access to maternal and infant health data, including rates of C-section, pre-term birth, and death.

Fostering Alliances to Improve Maternal Health

Our partnership with March of Dimes allows us to take advantage of multiple synergies between our two organizations. These include not-for-profit status, focus on data-driven outcomes, and shared mission to improve the health and well-being of mothers and babies.

Rachel Mayer, MITRE’s principal investigator for 3MID, has led the collaboration with March of Dimes for the past year. “By discussing the dashboard’s development, trends in the field, and what stakeholders want, we refined 3MID for greater impact,” she says.

A recently finalized technology transfer agreement formalizes ongoing collaboration and gives March of Dimes rights to use MITRE’s 3MID intellectual property.

3MID’s incorporation in PeriStats is mutually beneficial. With 3MID, users of PeriStats will be able to access advanced analytics, modeling, and simulation tools right on the site.

PeriStats’ roughly 15,000 users per month range from congressional staffers to state legislators to researchers. Including 3MID gives policy-makers access to a tool that could significantly improve their jurisdictions’ maternal health outcomes.

For example, 3MID offers state-level leaders an opportunity to improve their annual March of Dimes Report Card grades for maternal and child health. The MITRE-March of Dimes partnership provides a path to explore what maternal health indicators could be included in the report card, where the quality data is, and how we can develop those data points.

With 3MID, states can run scenarios on how to improve their maternal health outcomes, given their state’s available resources. The dashboard can also highlight gaps in a state’s data. For example, if California has certain data another state doesn’t, that state can explore ways to collect that data. This can drive improvements in data standardization and collection—and maternal health outcomes overall.

Two-Fold Impact: Improve Outcomes, Improve Data Quality

Over the past year, the MITRE team implemented multiple advancements to the dashboard. For example, decision-makers can now drill down to a finer level of granularity—selecting the county, hospital, and individual within a synthetic population (i.e., a reproduced representation of a population that replicates the statistical variables of a true population).

At the individual level, users can see age, race, employment, income, and maternal mortality risk-assessment score: the woman’s likelihood of experiencing maternal death. And a new cost-effectiveness component helps decision-makers consider the economic implications of interventions. The level of detail enables public officials to allocate resources where interventions have the most impact.

“Few medical issues are as universal as maternal health,” says Alison Dingwall, 3MID’s co-principal investigator. “And some of the associated concerns carry big future implications for health overall.

“These include mental health and social service needs for children and families after maternal death or illness. We need to address these related issues as well.”

The 3MID team has also published nationally recognized research around maternal health data quality and its impact on maternal mortality. Most recently their work appeared in the Journal of Women’s Health Issues.

As 3MID’s use grows, the team seeks to increase its impact. For instance, they’re exploring how to address the limitations in data for American Indian/Alaska Native women—populations that also suffer higher maternal mortality rates.

“It’s important to continue engaging with the community to see how they’re using the tool and to get their feedback. How can we further improve 3MID? What other areas can it apply to?” says Abdul Sheikhnureldin, 3MID’s lead developer.

“I’m excited to see how we can enhance the tool to make a real difference in improving maternal health.”

—by Denise Schiavone

And explore more at Focal Point: Promoting Equity.

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