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April 11, 2023

Temple Health's new campus seeks to combat city's high maternal death rate

Black women in Philly are more like to die from pregnancy-related causes. A lack of prenatal care and poor health care access are among the reasons for this disparity

Women's Health Maternal Mortality
Temple Women & Families Campus Provided Image/Temple Health

Temple Health's new Women & Families campus aims to combat the city's high maternal and infant death rates by expanding access to outpatient obstetrical and gynecological care in North Philadelphia.

Temple Health has opened a new Women & Families campus that aims to expands access to maternal health care services in North Philadelphia. 

The Women & Families campus, at 1331 E. Wyoming Ave., began offering outpatient obstetrical and gynecologic care in early April. The practice has seven OB/GYN physicians who perform various outpatient surgical procedures, many of which use minimally-invasive techniques.

Temple Health also plans to offer on-site radiology services, including X-rays, MRIs, digital mammographies and nuclear medicine, on the new campus once the Pennsylvania Department of Health gives its approval. 

"Maternal and infant mortality in the U.S. has been third world," Temple Health CEO Michael A. Young said. "We wanted to establish a hospital focusing exclusively on women and children. When that is all you do, you become the best at it.

"None of the other hospitals in the region have made this commitment. That is how important we think it is."

The United States has the highest maternal death rate among affluent countries, and new mothers in Philadelphia have a particularly high risk of death. The city's maternal mortality rate was about 20 deaths per 100,000 live births from 2013 to 2018, according a report by the city's Maternal Mortality Review Committee. Though this was a significant decline from prior years, it was still higher than the 2018 national rate of 17.4 per 100,000.

Black women were more likely than women of other races and ethnicities to die from pregnancy-related causes. They made up 73% of the deaths despite only accounting for 43% of overall births. Lack of prenatal care, poor health care access, chronic conditions, structural racism and implicit bias all contribute to high maternal death rates, experts say.

High rates of infant death also are a concern in Philadelphia. A 2020 city report found that infant deaths accounted for 55% of all child deaths in Philadelphia from 2011 to 2017, with Black infants having higher mortality rates than other racial and ethnic groups, despite public health efforts and advances in obstetric and pediatric care.

The majority of the deaths were related to prematurity and perinatal conditions, and sleep-related deaths. Research has shown that chronic stress and certain maternal health conditions increase the risk of infants being born at low-birth weights.

The Women & Families campus has private rooms and is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, Young said. It offers free parking, and is also easily accessible by public transportation.

"For the first time in a long time, Temple has the physical space to do it the way we want to do it," he said.

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