CHICAGO — A new report is sounding the alarm about maternal mortality in the U.S., especially for Black and Brown women.

The report released by the CDC in 2021 showed that more than 1,200 people died of maternal causes in the United States.

The COVID-driven surge represents a 40% jump from the year before, including significant increases for Black and Hispanic Americans. The mortality rate was 2.6 times higher for Black women than for white women.

Dr. Elizabeth Cherot with the March of Dimes says the number shows the crisis is worsening for the most vulnerable communities.

“The disparities with black and brown women are just getting worse and that’s what’s really shocking,” Cherot said.

Preliminary numbers for 2022 suggest a return to pre-pandemic levels. Even before COVID-19, the U.S. had the worst maternal mortality rates compared to other wealthy countries.

At a roundtable discussion in Englewood Friday, Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra said the Biden Administration is focused on improving maternal health.

“We challenged every state, not just 60 days, a permanent part of Medicaid,” Becerra said.

Cherot says the U.S. needs to do a better job of prioritizing women’s healthcare.

“The solution is going to be is complex. I wish it was a simple answer. I wish we could flip the switch. We’ve been doing programs and pilots around mobile health trying to bring health care to patients in these maternity care deserts,” Cherot said.

Calling for blanket change, the March of Dimes is working on advocacy, research and education, including implicit bias training for providers.