Need for Maternal Health Programs in Rural Areas
Maternal mortality is rising in the U.S. Rural women experience poorer maternal health outcomes compared to
their non-rural counterparts, including higher
pregnancy-related mortality (death while pregnant or within one year of the end of a pregnancy). Women
in rural and urban communities also experience racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in maternal health
outcomes. These disparities are amplified for women living in tribal communities.
Women living in rural communities face challenges accessing needed care. A lack of access to maternal healthcare
disproportionately impacts Black and Hispanic communities and women with low incomes. Rural women are less
likely to receive prenatal care. Prenatal
care initiation in the first trimester was lower for mothers in more rural areas compared with suburban
There is a need for high quality maternal health programs in rural communities to address the unique barriers
that rural women face. Maternal health programs in rural areas can help to increase access to high quality
healthcare services before, during, and after pregnancy, as well as health insurance and social support.
According to the Centers
for Medicare & Medicaid Services:
“In an ideal maternal health system, all women would have access to comprehensive, seamless medical
care with links to behavioral, economic, and social supports. Additionally, they would be engaged
with this system before, during, and after pregnancy. Across the United States, many women are not
receiving care in this ideal system, and women in rural communities face unique challenges that make
it harder for them to reach this ideal or any care at all in some cases.”
Resources to Learn More
Access to Maternal Care in Rural Communities
Describes updated program examples of rural hospitals improving access to maternal care.
Organization(s): American Hospital Association
Resources by Topic: Maternal Health and Prenatal
Provides a collection of up-to-date resources listed in RHIhub's Online Library related to maternal health and
prenatal care that could be used to guide efforts to improve access, treatment, and outcomes.
Organization(s): Rural Health Information Hub
The Surgeon General's Call
to Action to Improve Maternal Health
Describes the state of maternal health in the U.S., including data and statistics on mortality and
morbidity. Discusses risks to maternal health, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, infectious diseases,
mental health conditions, intimate partner violence, and more. Recommends strategies and actions that
individuals, organizations, and communities can implement to improve maternal health and reduce maternal
morbidity and mortality. Includes rural references throughout.
Organization: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services