By Dr. Rachel Robison, MD FACOG & Dr. Lindsey Vasquez, MD CPE FACOG
Legacy Community Health is the largest OB-providing Federally Qualified Health Center in the nation, seeing twice the number of prenatal patients than any other FQHC in the country.
The most recent joint report by the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee and the Department of State Health Services, published in September 2020 and revised in February 2022, states that cardiovascular and coronary conditions, mental disorders, obstetric hemorrhage, preeclampsia and eclampsia, infection, embolism, cardiomyopathy and pulmonary conditions accounted for 82% of maternal deaths in Texas. The national maternal mortality rate was 23.8 per 100,000 births in 2020, an 18% year-over-year increase.
But Black women died at a rate of 55.3 per 100,000 births that year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Further, Texas’ maternal mortality rate consistently ranks higher than the U.S. average.
Most of these deaths are preventable with proper care and monitoring. This is why Legacy works within our communities to provide education and turn the tide of maternal mortality in Texas.
Legacy Community Health is the largest OB/Maternal Care-providing Federally Qualified health Center (FQHC) in the United States, providing a wide array of health care services including comprehensive high-quality maternal care throughout Southeast Texas, from Houston to Beaumont. This includes providing services to over 10,000 new OB and maternal patients per year.
Serving Southeast Texas’ diverse populations is no small undertaking: Legacy serves patients with and without insurance, and even accepts patients without a history of any prenatal care. Our providers come from a diverse range of backgrounds and many speak multiple languages – translation services are also offered to patients who need it.
These are lifesaving measures. Educational endeavors, like creating “maternal warning sign” flyers, given to patients in the third trimester and postpartum, are available in many of the languages most commonly spoken by our patients including Dari, English, Pashto, Spanish, and Tigrenia. These measures inspire Legacy’s OB patients to feel more confident and to have a voice to speak up and reach out when they feel like something is wrong.
A unique and innovative service offered to OB patients at LCH in coordination with Public Health is called Perinatal Pediatric Navigators (PPN), a service which has continued to expand since its formal creation. This service allows a specialized maternal navigator to follow and support high-risk OB patients throughout their pregnancy and through the first months of life. This is invaluable to our patient population, considering over 60% of our maternal patients are deemed high risk. PPNs attend both OB and pediatric appointments with patients as well as provide education, access to resources, and create a bond that allows these high-risk OB patients to have safer pregnancies. When the patient requires assistance or has a question outside the exam room, PPNs are only a phone call or text away. All Legacy OB providers participate in Continued Learning in Safe Maternal Care practices and have completed Maternal Implicit Bias training, in an effort to foster trust and accommodate for cultural needs among the varied communities we serve.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Legacy initiated the Supporting Pregnancies and Redefining Care program, or Legacy SPARC, at our Fifth Ward clinic. SPARC was an evidence-based program in collaboration with March of Dimes for expectant parents which combined quality OB care and the additional support system of other pregnant parents. After birth, parents returned for a baby shower. Though the pandemic paused the program, we’re hopeful for a revival.
The programs discussed here serve to illustrate that Legacy has put fourth significant effort over the last two years toward improving maternal health, maternal education, and access. Turning the tide of maternal mortality and morbidity in Houston and Harris County is possible, and the work that we do here at Legacy is a part of that. Through myriad efforts and competent care, we are here for you every step of the way.
Dr. Rachel Robinson is the Medical Director of OB/GYN at Legacy Community Health. Dr. Lindsey Vasquez is the Associate Medical Director of OB/GYN at Legacy. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please visit us online or call (832) 548-5000.