TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Honolulu – About 700 women die per year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or its complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

American Indian/Alaska Native and Black women are two to three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women, the CDC says.

Black Maternal Health Week is recognized April 11-17 every year to amplify the voices of the birth equity movement.

April is also National Minority Health Month, which seeks to raise awareness about health disparities that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority populations.

Black women make up one-third of all active duty female service members, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Effectively delivering care to pregnant, Black, military health system beneficiaries directly impacts the nation’s readiness.

Dr. (Maj.) Candace Giles, chief of obstetrics at Tripler Army Medical Center, has both a clinical and personal connection to Black Maternal Health Week. An African American obstetrician and gynecologist, Giles gave birth to a healthy baby boy six weeks ago.

Dr. (Maj.) Candace Giles, Chief of Obstetrics at Tripler Army Medical Center
Dr. (Maj.) Candace Giles, Chief of Obstetrics at Tripler Army Medical Center (Photo Credit: Mackenzie Walsj) VIEW ORIGINAL

“Despite being an OB/GYN physician, I still had fears of complications because of the known increased risk of pregnancy-related mortality in African American women,” said Giles. “The physicians, midwives, and nurses at Tripler Army Medical Center provided excellent care and took a holistic approach, allowing my mind to be put at ease.”

In observance of Black Maternal Health Week, the Tripler OB/GYN Department, Family Practice Department, Labor and Delivery and Mother Baby Unit are reaffirming their commitment to inclusive quality care.

Tripler’s departments are committed to the following:

1.     Analyzing Tripler’s performance on national quality metrics, measuring maternal outcomes when it comes to race.

2.     Instituting a visitor policy allowing doulas during COVID-19 restrictions to support all mothers during the labor process, if the mother chooses. Doulas have been shown to improve maternal outcomes in women of color and increase the level of cultural competency in the delivery of care.

3.     Being on the forefront of standardization of care per Defense Health Agency (DHA) policies. Tripler, along with other military treatment facilities, implemented the DHA Postpartum Hemorrhage Bundle. The forthcoming Joint Commission Maternal Hypertension 2021 Standard will create clear, standardized and reproducible criteria for intervention during life threatening complications and improve our performance on specific complications such as hemorrhage and hypertension that disproportionately affect African American women.

4.     Utilizing a standardized communication and triage criteria to evaluate and admit women who may be having a complication of pregnancy.  This will be conducted using the Maternal Fetal Triage Index as well as culturally competent communication and assessment tools developed by the leading professional organizations for OB/GYN providers and labor and delivery nurses.

Tripler has a Level III NICU, 24/7 obstetric nurse-midwife and physician coverage, and a full-service Antepartum Diagnostic Center that reinforce the hospital’s mission to support expectant mothers. Tripler is the tertiary referral center for 52% of the earth’s surface for military health beneficiaries who have complicated pregnancies.