Today, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an executive order to create the Arkansas Strategic Committee for Maternal Health. Excel by Eight looks forward to working alongside this steering committee to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies across the state.

For every 100,000 babies born in Arkansas from 2018-2021, about 43.5 mothers died of pregnancy-associated complications. This is the highest rate of maternal mortality in the United States. Drivers of adverse maternal outcomes include food and housing insecurity, chronic stress, and provider shortages and hospital quality. Socioeconomic and racial disparities exacerbate this crisis, with Black, non-Hispanic mothers being twice as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white, non-Hispanic mothers.

RELATED: 8 Takeaways from the 2023 Excel by Eight Foundations Summit

Ensuring adequate maternal health care before, during, and after pregnancy is crucial for the healthy development of a child and can reduce the risk of complications during birth. Access to regular prenatal care, appropriate medical interventions, and support during labor and delivery can help prevent fatalities and serious health issues for mothers and babies across our state.

Alarmingly, 92% of maternal deaths in Arkansas are potentially preventable. One proven solution to the maternal health crisis is ensuring that all women have access to doula support. Visionary doulas across Arkansas have come together to form a doula association, with technical assistance provided by Excel by Eight. The doulas’ vision is to advance the profession of birth work through advocacy and education, improve access to doula services, and ensure the consistency and quality of those services. In particular, doulas are advocating to have their services reimbursed by Medicaid and health insurance plans. This association of doulas will serve as part of a larger effort to address the state’s growing maternal health crisis.

Excel by Eight has had the privilege to work with doulas across Arkansas, including Cora Crain (left) of Balanced Mama and Nicolle Fletcher (center) of Ujima Maternity Network, on championing the role of doulas as part of the birth team. Pictured with them is Anna Strong, executive director of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the Excel by Eight Foundations executive committee.