Children and Pregnant Women

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A review of the literature of the 1980s reveals that women living in rural America are at risk for receiving inadequate prenatal and maternal care. Documented risk factors include poverty and concomitant lack of medical insurance, residence in the most restrictive Medicaid states, and loss of local services including the closure of obstetric units of rural hospitals and the decision by local physicians to discontinue obstetrics. A prominent factor in a physician's decision to stop providing maternity care is the escalating cost of medical liability insurance; however, other forces are also at work, including interference with personal and family activities, disruption of other aspects of professional life (e.g., office schedule), inadequate reimbursement, and an inability to keep up with advancing technology. A research agenda for the 1990s should be consistent with previous recommendations and must stimulate the development of new programs that will induce the maximum number of providers to again offer high quality perinatal care to rural women. Other items on the 1990s research agenda include: (1) the clarification of the impact of lost perinatal services in rural areas, (2) the effects of travel time and distance on perinatal outcomes and cost of care, (3) the effect of loss of obstetric services on other health care services for women and children, and (4) comparisons of regionalized versus centralized systems for the provision of perinatal services.

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