July 11, 2023

WSU leads statewide network to combat high rates of pre-term birth

Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate vice president of Women’s Health and founder of Wayne State University’s Office of Women’s Health.

The state of Michigan has allocated $8 million to fund a first of its kind statewide network of 14 maternal-fetal medicine universities and health care systems to decrease the rates of pre-term birth and improve the health of pregnant mothers and their infants.

Wayne State University will lead and coordinate the SOS Maternity Network, which includes:

Wayne State University
Oakland University
Michigan State University  
Western Michigan University
University of Michigan
Ascension St. John Hospital and Medical Center        
Bronson Healthcare
Corewell Health (Beaumont)
Corewell Health (Spectrum) 
Detroit Medical Center
Henry Ford Health
Hurley Hospital
Sparrow Medical Group
Trinity Health Ann Arbor
“The SOS Maternity Network has created, for the first time, a statewide network of Michigan’s finest universities and health care systems to declare war on our terrible rates of maternal and infant mortality,” said Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate vice president of Women’s Health and founder of Wayne State University’s Office of Women’s Health. Dr. Hassan is an internationally recognized leader in maternal fetal medicine. “We will begin by focusing on preterm birth and preeclampsia, the leading causes of death among pregnant moms and infants.”

The network will develop a new model for the delivery of care for pregnant women and newborns, and will participate in rigorous research evaluation led by WSU’s Office of Women’s Health to show the effect of this model.

Despite medical advances nationally, in Michigan the outcomes for pregnant women and newborns continue to worsen. In fact, network leaders said, Michigan is one of the worst states in America for pregnant moms and babies. The March of Dimes’ most recent rankings concluded that the state rated a D+ for efforts to protect the lives and health of pregnant women and infants. The state’s 10.6% preterm birth rate in 2022 was the highest in 15 years. The 6.5 (per 1,000 births) infant mortality rate was well above the national average, and nearly 100 mothers died from complications related to childbirth, a 30% increase from just five years ago.

“The state of Michigan is facing a pregnancy crisis,” said Ray Bahado-Singh, M.D., chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology for Corewell Health in southeast Michigan. “No demographic group is immune. Nationally, the situation is not much better. It’s important to note that maternal and infant health are key indicators of a nation’s overall wellbeing. The decision by some of our leading obstetric centers and universities to mobilize and address this menace collaboratively is unprecedented. I am encouraged by the state’s understanding that we can and should do better -- along with its willingness play a central role in the effort. We are grateful for the financial support it has allocated to help us enhance and standardize prenatal care.” 

“Improving infant mortality rates and pregnancy outcomes in Detroit and beyond, as well as supporting mothers and parents in the crucial period during and after pregnancy, has long been a priority for Henry Ford Health,” said Adnan Munkarah, M.D., president, Care Delivery System and chief clinical officer for Henry Ford Health. “We are so inspired when we see commitments to improving maternal and infant health on a level like this—we’ve never been more ready to elevate this vital work alongside our community partners and make a difference in countless lives.”

In addition to focused research and standardizations of best practices statewide, the SOS Maternity Network will:

•    Increase access to prenatal care through transportation and individualized patient navigators.

•    Create a system of incentives for pregnant mothers to have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

•    Focus on prevention of preeclampsia and preterm birth, the primary causes of deaths of pregnant women and newborns.

•    Direct incentive payments to health care providers for delivering the most proven, effective care plans for reducing preterm birth and preeclampsia, under best practices as set forth by the network’s medical protocols.

The roots of the network were formed in May 2020 as the Southern Michigan Regional COVID-19 Collaborative, a coalition of 14 health care institutions serving communities throughout the state in Michigan’s largest maternal-fetal medicine obstetrical research collaborative. The network collected data on more than 1,400 women and reported maternal-fetal health outcomes demonstrating higher rates of preterm birth, preeclampsia and health disparities in pregnant women with COVID-19.

The health care leaders reconfigured the group into the Synergy of Scholars for Maternal and Infant Health Equity in Michigan, or SOS Maternity in Michigan, Network to further investigate and implement evidence-based practices to improve maternal and infant health disparities across the state. Institutions in the network are responsible for more than 50,000 deliveries per year in Michigan.

Dr. Hassan said other centers in Michigan will be added to develop a true statewide coalition.

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