Health and Wellness

Accelerating Maternal Health Research

Maternal health and the impact on mothers and babies


Maternal health is a critical issue faced by millions of women every day. And this is not just a women's issue, it's a human issue. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60% of pregnancy-related deaths in America are preventable. In this episode, we speak with Ellen Seely, MD, director of clinical research for Brigham and Women's Hospital and research lead for Heart Health 4 Moms, a study of women who have experienced pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia.

Indu Subaiya, MD, MBA, co-founder and president, Catalyst @ Health 2.0; senior advisor, HIMSS, and Dr. Seely begin by discussing the importance of research of heart disease in women who are pregnant and how, when pregnant, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia can be predictors of heart disease down the road. Dr. Seely’s passion to change the outdated 1980s guidelines and the importance of her research is evident from the start. Ultimately, her research led her to discover major disconnects between what happens in pregnancy and what happens many years after pregnancy, such that the people caring for women (i.e., internist, primary care physician, etc.) often don't know there is correlation and don't know to ask their patients about previous pregnancy complications that are direct indicators or causes for health issues.

Dr. Seely expounds on the updated mandates by the American Heart Association and College of Cardiology that recommend all women should be asked questions that could determine if they are at risk for pregnancy complications and those answers should be documented. By asking questions, providers can determine who is at higher and lower risk, and women with possible complications should be considered at higher risk. However, another major disconnect is that despite being determined as high risk, women were commonly not asked about their complications in further appointments. This finding reinforced Dr. Seely’s mission to discover how to prove that maternal health complications are a window into future health outcomes.

Unable to depend on the providers alone to inform women about the links between health complications during pregnancy and future heart disease risks, Dr. Seely’s Heart Health 4 Moms study aims to meet people where they are, starting with educating women directly. The first focus is on making women aware of their risk factor, then finding an easy way to help them adopt to health changes that fit within their life as a new mother. The study’s foremost goal is to fit education into women’s lives naturally. The study is rooted in family-based intervention with a mobile app.

Dr. Seely encourages providers, patients, technologists, and especially payers, to come together and work as a larger team to prioritize health outcomes for mothers. She aims to empower patients to inform providers of their needs and risk status using the knowledge gained from Heart Health 4 Moms.

The views and opinions expressed in this content or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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