National Quality Forum Launches New Project to Improve Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Outcomes 

NOV 01, 2019

CONTACT: Proof Strategies

National Quality Forum Launches New Project to Improve Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Outcomes
NQF’s latest effort will address maternal morbidity and mortality with innovative and actionable measurement approaches

Washington, DC
- The National Quality Forum (NQF) is announcing a new project, funded by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), to address maternal morbidity and mortality in the United States, key indicators of women’s health and consequently of the quality of our nation’s healthcare overall.

Estimated to affect more than 60,000 women each year,123  severe maternal morbidity refers to the unexpected adverse outcomes of pregnancy, such as hemorrhage or hysterectomy, whereas maternal mortality refers to maternal deaths, which may occur up to one year after pregnancy ends. These deaths can result from many circumstances, such as pregnancy complications, a chain of medical emergencies, medical mismanagement of the pregnancy or delivery, or the worsening of an unrelated condition because of the pregnancy. The United States is the only industrialized nation with rising maternal mortality rates (17.2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) with more than 700 women dying annually from pregnancy related causes.4

While the causes of the rising rates are unclear, racial disparities persist. Although these rates vary by region, state, and across racial and ethnic lines, where significant disparities highlight differences among women of color are even more concerning, with non-Hispanic black women and Native American women experiencing corresponding pregnancy-related mortality rates of 42.8 and 32.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, respectively.4

Significant racial and ethnic disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality exist in the United States where Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related death as compared with white women.1 Improving maternal health outcomes is a national priority. In this CMS-funded project, NQF will convene a diverse group of healthcare experts and leaders representing patients, caregivers, and other healthcare system stakeholders to develop actionable approaches to improve maternal health outcomes. This includes innovative short-term and long-term quality measurement strategies to enhance care.

“Maternal morbidity and mortality are widely viewed as a health epidemic,” said Elisa Munthali, Senior Vice President of Quality Measurement. “Now is a critical time to bring diverse stakeholders together to collaborate on approaches to improve maternal care and women’s health.”

Throughout this project, NQF will draw on expert multistakeholder input to identify opportunities for using measurement to address maternal morbidity and mortality. Learn more and become involved with this project.


About National Quality Forum
The National Quality Forum (NQF) works with members of the healthcare community to drive measurable health improvements together. NQF is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization that gives all healthcare stakeholders a voice in advancing quality measures and improvement strategies that lead to better outcomes and greater value. Learn more at

Howell EA. Reducing Disparities in Severe Maternal Morbidity and Mortality. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2018;61(2), 387-399.

Callaghan WM, Creanga AA, Kuklina EV. Severe maternal morbidity among delivery and postpartum hospitalizations in the United States. Obstet Gynecol. 2012;120:1029–103.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Severe Maternal Morbidity in the United States.

Petersen EE, Davis NL, Goodman D, et al.Vital Signs: Pregnancy-Related Deaths, United States, 2011–2015, and Strategies for Prevention, 13 States, 2013–2017. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:423–429.