Addressing Maternal Care and Morbidity in Women of Color
Women of color are disproportionately impacted by maternal mortality and morbidity disparities. Black women are nearly three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women, and these numbers have not changed over the last 60 years.
The North Carolina Black Alliance engaged with the March of Dimes during their 2021 annual conference on maternal health disparities, “Accelerating Birth Equity: Moving from Data to Action.” The conference highlighted several reasons why the United States is the most dangerous developed nation to give birth, especially for women of color, and policies introduced at the state and federal levels to address these disparities. A woman’s experience with healthcare—how she’s welcome, respected, and treated during her visits—impacts her overall health outcomes and morbidities. In addition to a woman’s experience with healthcare, her physical environment and exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in hair products such as hair relaxers and lotions can contribute to adverse health outcomes such as fibroids, infertility, and pregnancy complications
Women of color cannot wait any longer for equitable care. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 is a comprehensive, evidence-based package of 12 bills that seek to fill legislative gaps and improve maternal health outcomes for women of color. The policies would provide funding for community-based organizations that work to improve maternal health outcomes; improve data collection; improve maternal care for incarcerated mothers, and support mothers with mental health conditions and substance use disorders. In November 2021, the first bill in the package was passed, The Protecting Moms Who Served Act of 2021, to ensure veterans receive high-quality maternal care. While the new North Carolina budget did not expand Medicaid, it did extend Medicaid coverage for pregnant people for twelve months postpartum. There are still mothers without Medicaid coverage because the legislature did not expand Medicaid, and the budget lacks solutions to addressing the ongoing maternal and infant health crisis.
Addressing maternal health outcomes is an intersectional issue requiring leaders to analyze contributing factors to poor maternal health outcomes for Black women, such as access to affordable, high-quality healthcare and the role of food deserts, environmental toxins, and substandard housing play.
Access to Healthcare Program Coordinator