A state health official has developed a method of better investigating maternal mortality that has found the rate of deaths in Illinois is substantially higher than reported to the state's Department of Public Health. About 80 women die each year in Illinois from complications of pregnancy or childbirth. The Health Department, however, does not get notified in about 60 percent of those cases despite hospital reporting requirements. Department researcher Nancy Martin developed a new approach in which investigators comb through newspaper reports, obituaries, police death investigation reports and funeral home websites. It's helping officials better understand and address the social and economic factors that contribute to the problem. The Health Department announced Friday that Martin's work has won her an award from a national nonprofit group representing public health agencies.
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