What are the most critical health issues facing women in Baton Rouge and Louisiana?
The Network posed that question to Dr. Barbara Griffith, the newly appointed CEO of Woman’s Hospital. Her answer: premature birth rates and maternal death rates.
Griffith began her tenure as the hospital’s sixth CEO in October, and brings to the position more than 20 years of clinical practice experience, along with 15-plus years in health care leadership roles, including, most recently, serving as former chief medical officer of Duke Regional Hospital.
At the top of Griffith’s priority list for her new role is improving premature birth rates and reducing maternal death rates, which she says Woman’s Hospital is working to accomplish on all fronts.
Woman’s has contributed to lowering Baton Rouge’s premature birth rate—one of the highest in the nation—by eliminating elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks gestation, Griffith says.
“Within the hospital, we have physicians and nurses, social workers and psychiatrists working together to improve how we manage the largest drivers of preterm birth, such as high blood pressure and drug use,” Griffith says. “Outside of our walls, we are working with local physician offices to provide social work support to high-risk patients.”
Louisiana has the second-highest maternal mortality rate, which measures the rate of deaths from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy or childbirth, with nearly 45 women dying per 10,000 births according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Griffith says that bleeding is the leading cause of those maternal deaths. High blood pressure can contribute to the problem, so Woman’s has started monitoring blood pressure more closely, and has drills for hospital staff to practice effectively treating bleeding.
Outside of maternal and baby health, Griffith says addiction, obesity and breast cancer treatment are the other top concerns. Obesity and addiction can be connected to premature births and maternal health, too. The hospital has launched an addiction treatment program and weight management clinic to help, she says.
“Many women still face the obstacle of getting a mammogram, particularly underserved women and those living in rural areas,” Griffith says. “To reach these women, Woman’s invested in a second mammography coach.”
The hospital’s two buses serve 22 parishes, and this past year screened more than 4,000 women.