The findings of the Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) cannot change the health and well-being of birthing people if they stay within the boundaries of your MMRC members and staff. MMRCs are obligated and, in most cases, statutorily or legislatively required to share what they learn with policymakers and the public to inform action that prevents future maternal deaths.
Summarizing Data for Reporting
Pregnancy-related deaths in the United States are relatively rare events. Statistics can fluctuate from year to year, particularly in states or jurisdictions with few deaths. This makes it difficult to evaluate or monitor trends over time and share these trends in reports. For this reason, MMRCs typically need multiple years of data to make sound conclusions.
MMRCs interpret data across cases and create reports using two primary methods: quantitative and qualitative analyses. The quantitative data an MMRC incorporates into analysis often includes demographic information, causes of death, and characteristics of the cases that may indicate increased risk of death and point to opportunities to intervene in the perinatal period. Qualitative data give voice to those who were lost by telling their stories. The qualitative data an MMRC incorporates into analysis may include informant interviews and committee decisions regarding contributing factors, preventability, and recommendations. Analysts can identify themes across these data to bring meaning to complex topics that complement quantitative data. For more information refer to the Qualitative Analysis Resource Guide for MMRIA Users.
MMRCs must take special care describing the disparities in maternal mortality between racial and ethnic groups found through analyses. For MMRCs to be assets in reducing health inequities, consider the following in generating reports:
- Present disparity data with descriptive information about the processes that create inequitable health outcomes. Not doing so incorrectly suggests that the blame for the disparity rests on the individual or population group.
- Start with recommendations that address the leading causes of death for marginalized populations in your state.
- Be transparent about the data sources the MMRC reviews for each case and their limitations in providing information about the context in which a person lived. Even if information about social determinants of health is available, all MMRC members and staff must take care in interpreting this information. Members should not make assumptions but must acknowledge if and how these social determinants of health transformed the person’s lived experience, in addition to the oppressions that determine a person’s exposure to them, such as racism, sexism, and ableism.
- Recommend collaborative action to improve the range of social, political, and economic factors that are at the root of the inequities.
Data Reporting Methods
In recent years, attention on maternal mortality data at the national, state, and local level has increased. MMRC reports and data releases may be accessed by a wide variety of individuals from diverse backgrounds including members of the public and the media. Because of this, it is important that data and recommendations be presented in a clear, succinct manner and graphics should be easy to understand.
When summarizing data to share and report on findings from the MMRC, you should consider multiple methods to reach your different audiences. Here are some of the communication methods you could use:
Case Vignettes or Examples
More and more MMRCs use vignettes or composite or sample cases in their reports to deepen the connection to the information and demonstrate the kinds of cases that come before the MMRC and how they discuss each case.
Special Topic Report
Communicating in-depth information about different types of cases in one large report can be challenging. Some MMRCs create special topic reports to explore a specific cause of death or critical factor in more detail.
Data Visualization, Including Infographics
MMRC data are complex. Displaying data visually helps the viewer to learn and act on key findings in an engaging and effective manner.
MMRCs do not need to wait for the release of lengthy reports to communicate urgent information, especially when cases indicate that providers may not be meeting standards of care or newly released guidelines. MMRCs can partner with state professional society chapters and health agencies to direct urgent messages toward healthcare providers.