The ProPublica and NPR series “Lost Mothers” has been named a Peabody Award finalist. The collaboration illuminated a national disgrace: The United States, which spends more per capita on health care than any other country, has the highest rate of maternal mortality and severe morbidity in the developed world.
ProPublica reporters Nina Martin, Adriana Gallardo and Annie Waldman, along with NPR special correspondent Renee Montagne, explored the myriad reasons behind this crisis. Their body of work included intimate narratives of mothers perishing for want of the most basic care and an analysis of the social inequities that contribute to African-American women’s disproportionate rates of maternal mortality, with black mothers in the U.S. dying at three to four times the rate of white mothers.
Another element of the series was a callout, asking people who knew someone who died or nearly died from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes to tell ProPublica their stories. Almost 4,500 readers responded, including over 4,000 who said they had almost died themselves. These responses helped the reporters create a first-of-its kind database of mothers who died from pregnancy-related complications.
The series has had significant impact. Citing “Lost Mothers,” state and local lawmakers around the country have adopted a flurry of bills aimed at reforming how maternal deaths are identified and investigated. Indiana and Oregon passed laws creating maternal mortality review committees to scrutinize deaths and near-deaths among expectant and new mothers, and to make policy recommendations to improve maternal health. Similar bills are pending in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey.
The Peabody Award winners will be announced later this month. See a full list of the finalists here.