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Along-awaited state report concludes most pregnancy-related deaths in Texas in 2019 were preventable and disproportionately affected Black women.
The report, issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Committee, indicated deaths were mainly attributable to hemorrhage, mental health conditions and blood clots. Also playing a role were discrimination and violence, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis of the report.
DSHS issued the report after months of delay, which drew criticism from members of the committee and maternal health advocates, as well as Democratic lawmakers.
Fourteen women died during pregnancy over the study period, while another 45 died up to a year after giving birth. The Legislature in the coming session is again likely to consider extending post-partum Medicaid assistance from six months to one year, The News reported.
The “consistence of maternal health disparities” was noted by the committee as a key theme that runs through the report. Black women are twice as likely to experience serious health issues during childbirth.
“The report makes clear that state leaders must do more to prevent maternal deaths and support healthy pregnancies among Texas women of all backgrounds, regardless but particularly among Black women,” said Diana Forester, Director of Health Policy for the advocacy group Texans Care for Children.
Drought having considerable economic impact
The state’s ongoing drought has cost the Texas economy nearly $7.62 billion in direct agricultural losses, according to the Texas Water Development Board. With very little rainfall during the planting season, this year’s drought could have a similar effect next year on West Texas farmers and ranchers, who sustained serious losses in 2022. That’s according to a recent report from the state comptroller’s office.
Currently about 15% of the state is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions, while nearly 90% of the state still is abnormally dry, the report said.
“The state continues to work on improved management of its water resources as it continues to experience rapid growth in the urban areas, which potentially can compete with agricultural interests for a finite resource,” the report said.
A welcome piece of news is that November was wetter than usual across much of the state.
Storage of the state’s water supply reservoirs is at 70% of capacity, 11 percentage points below normal for this time of year. Despite the bit of relief Texas experienced in November, drought conditions are expected to expand over the next few months, according to Dr. Mark Wentzel, hydrologist with the Texas Water Development Board.
Wentzel wrote that La Niña conditions, which are largely responsible for the current drought, are expected to dissipate by spring, which may bring much-needed relief to drought-affected areas.