Delaware’s Healthcare Paradox: Maternity Care Excels, But Injuries and Drug Deaths Surge

by Ella

The state of healthcare for women in Delaware paints a perplexing picture, as it ranks among the top states for maternity care while witnessing a concerning surge in drug and injury-related deaths among women.


A recent report by the United Health Foundation has placed Delaware as the 29th best state in the nation for women and children’s healthcare, revealing notable shifts in the state’s healthcare landscape over the past years. This ranking, however, marks the lowest position Delaware has held since the reports’ inception in 2016.


Here are the key highlights:

Delaware’s Strengths:

1. Chronic Conditions: Delaware stands out with a low prevalence of chronic conditions among women, including arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and cancer. Notably, data from the CDC for 2020-2021 illustrates these favorable health statistics.


2. Reduced Smoking Rates: The state has made significant progress in reducing smoking rates among women, with a remarkable 31% decrease in cigarette smoking between 2018 and 2021.


3. Limited Excessive Drinking: Delaware reports relatively lower rates of excessive drinking among women, with just over 16% of women aged 18 to 44 engaging in heavy drinking, which is categorized as consuming four or more drinks on one occasion or more than eight per week.

4. Maternity Care Excellence: Delaware shines in its policies and hospital practices related to maternity care. The state’s approach to maternity care, as assessed in the report, encompasses access to postpartum care, breastfeeding and newborn care education, and general community outreach. These strengths have resulted in Delaware being tied with seven other states for having the most accessible women’s healthcare. This is particularly significant as the national landscape sees a decline in maternity and women’s health centers, leading to “maternity care deserts” associated with increased maternal and infant mortality rates.

5. Infant Mortality Improvement: Delaware’s infant mortality rate declined by 18% between 2016 and 2020, decreasing from 7.1 to 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. Although still relatively high when compared to national figures, this decline signifies positive progress in infant health conditions.

Delaware’s Challenges:

1. Surge in Injuries: Alarmingly, Delaware has witnessed a 42% increase in injury-related deaths among women aged 20-44 between 2016 and 2021. This surge encompasses fatalities stemming from motor vehicle accidents, firearms, homicides, suicides, and other causes. The significant rise underscores the pressing need for enhanced behavioral health resources within local communities.

2. High Drug Death Rate: The state reports the second-highest drug death rate among women aged 20-44, with approximately 53 deaths per 100,000 females. Data from the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services reveals that drug overdoses continue to rise across the state, with 392 drug deaths recorded by October 17 of the current year.

3. Pediatric Care Decrease: Despite the abundance of healthcare providers for women in Delaware, there has been a reduction in pediatric practices, alongside a decline in early childhood education enrollment between 2019 and 2021. Some of these trends are likely linked to the pandemic-era shutdowns and the aging pediatric doctor population.

4. Limited Governmental Assistance: Delaware exhibits a low level of governmental assistance for eligible children under four, a factor associated with food insecurity and other health issues as these children grow older.

Despite Delaware’s high ranking for healthcare coverage, significant barriers persist, particularly for the Black and Hispanic populations in the state. The racial disparities are evident in various health aspects, such as infant mortality rates, which remain significantly higher for Black infants compared to their white counterparts. In Kent County, the infant mortality rate for Black babies increased by 77% while decreasing by 43% for white babies, according to 2020 data from the Division of Public Health.

This complex healthcare paradox in Delaware underscores the need for comprehensive efforts to address both strengths and challenges, ensuring the well-being of women and children across the state.


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