Leading Innovative Initiatives to Improve Maternal Health

February 28, 2024

How an Adtalem alumna became a leader in women’s health and how she’s using that role to promote systemic health equity.  

Dr. Rizwana Fareeduddin, MD ’01, a graduate of American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, is on a mission.  

As a maternal-fetal medicine physician, Dr. Fareeduddin has cared for thousands of high-risk pregnant patients and served in several hospital leadership roles. Those experiences focused her career as a physician leader and health equity champion.

There is an abundance of data to tell us that America is failing pregnant patients,

says Dr. Fareeduddin, who serves as the executive medical director for AdventHealth for Women in central Florida.

We have much work to do toward achieving equitable, respectful, safe, and evidence-based care for all pregnant people.

The statistics are sobering: 80% of maternal deaths are preventable and 50% occur post-delivery, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national maternal mortality rate for 2021 was 33 deaths per 100,000 live births, the highest seen since 1965. The maternal death rate in Florida is higher at 39 per 100,000.

Made with Flourish

As a member of the Florida Maternal Mortality Review Committee, she is familiar with this data. “The disparities are stark and not new. It’s unacceptable that American women and especially women of color are losing their lives during pregnancy, childbirth, and during the postpartum period,” adds Dr. Fareeduddin. “Systemic inequities in access to care and how people are treated differently based on race, gender or socioeconomic status create significant disparities in healthcare outcomes.”

Building Initiatives to Eliminate Preventable Maternal Mortality  

Dr. Fareeduddin advocates for women’s health by elevating and amplifying innovative efforts and calling for investment in maternal health throughout the state of Florida.  

Beyond her executive role and part-time practice, she serves several Florida organizations trying to change maternal health outcomes and provide a model for other parts of the country.  

Dr. Fareeduddin works with organizations such as the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative, to raise awareness about maternal health among colleagues and healthcare leaders.  

As part of the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative’s Postpartum Access & Continuity of Care initiative, her team is also working to reduce morbidity and improve postpartum care. Specific efforts include improving education to women about self-care, post-birth warning signs, risk factors, and birth spacing as well as scheduling patients for two-week follow-up visits instead of waiting the traditional six to eight weeks.

“One of the highest rates of preventable deaths occurs within weeks after a woman is discharged following childbirth,” she says. “When health problems after a pregnancy are misinterpreted, unrecognized, or not addressed, moms are at serious risk. We need to recognize that childbirth is one of the most physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing moments of a human’s life.

“We want to connect them to resources before they leave the hospital,” she adds. “In doing so, we strengthen mothers, their children, families and whole communities.”  

Additional initiatives are focused on improving care for at-risk populations and addressing social determinants of health. The Mother-Focused Care Initiative toolkit provides guidance in the development of individualized policies, protocols, activities, practices, and materials to transform hospital culture and create an environment that respectfully serves all patients. This is the first step that a hospital can take to improve the health care quality for all people, she says. 

Her team at AdventHealth for Women, through a DEI grant awarded by the Kellogg Foundation, has created the 4th Trimester Coordinator Program to help connect at-risk postpartum patients with resources, education, and support to allow them to heal and thrive and decrease the risk of readmission.

In addition, Dr. Fareeduddin is a state liaison for the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine. The group has identified four important ways that states are addressing the rising rates of maternal mortality:

  1. The establishment of maternal mortality review committees
  2. The establishment of perinatal quality collaboratives
  3. The expansion of Medicaid
  4. Reporting of data stratified by race/ethnicity

Earning Recognition for Maternal Health

Dr. Fareeduddin and her colleagues’ efforts have been recognized for making significant contributions to maternal and child health. In May 2023, AdventHealth for Women became the first facility in Florida to earn a Level IV Maternal Center Designation through The Joint Commission’s Maternal Levels of Care (MLC) Verification program.  

Staying Strong

“If we want to make systemic changes, we need collaboration between physicians, healthcare providers, hospital leaders, and policy makers,” says Dr. Fareeduddin. “It’s through this type of collaboration and commitment we will make a difference for all pregnant people and their families.”

Read more about Adtalem’s contributions to maternal health in Equity Delivered.  

For more information, email the Adtalem Global Communications Team: adtalemmedia@adtalem.com.