Black maternal health

Topic: In pandemic times, Black maternal health is more important than ever

While the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black communities is well-documented, with Black people taking hits in health, unemployment and education, maternal health advocates are focusing their attention on the particular crisis of care for pregnant Black women during the pandemic.

The Covid-19 health crisis has exacerbated existing shortcomings in the nation’s health system. And as a result of the health crisis, pregnant Black women in particular are reportedly enduring limited in-person prenatal care, limited support during labor, social isolation and increased economic anxiety.

As of 2019, Black women have faced a higher share of pregnancy-related deaths, and for Black women over 30, those figures are four to five times higher than their white peers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no concrete data yet available to determine the overall toll of the pandemic on them, but advocates like Dana Sherrod, birth equity and racial justice manager with the Cherished Futures for Black Moms and Babies, Public Health Alliance, are already expecting bleak outcomes.

“Covid is really exacerbating the stressors that exist for Black birthing folks. We know that high stress prenatally contributes to some of the inequities we see,” Sherrod said in an interview. “Black women really have these unique experiences, and Covid is substantially adding to the stress of Black people. I imagine we’re going to see that in our birthing outcomes.”

April 11 through April 17 marks “Black Maternal Health Week,” which aims to shed light on Black women’s maternal and reproductive care. The Black Mamas Matter Alliance launched the event three years ago, and the cause has increasingly garnered attention as disparities in Black maternal care have made headlines in recent years. Now, countless public health professionals, reproductive justice advocates, doulas, midwives and more across the country participate in the weeklong event with everything from webinars and training to mutual aid. Many of this year’s events are virtual, which only underscores the myriad ways Covid-19 is affecting not only Black maternal health, but also the communal nature that has come to define Black Maternal Health Week.

With that, the White House on Tuesday released a proclamation recognizing Black Maternal Health Week and vowed to take steps to address the maternal health crisis. Initial efforts include providing $6 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and allotting more than $250 million to implicit bias training, medical programs, early childhood development efforts, family planning programs and more.

Topic Discussed: In pandemic times, Black maternal health is more important than ever

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