•First data in 10 years from the Centers for Disease Control shows shocking numbers.
The death rate for new Black mothers in Washington, D.C., is twice the maternal death rate in Syria, a nation ravaged by war for nine years, new statistics show.
The news comes as the issue of Black maternal deaths finally seems to have caught the attention of some presidential candidates and lawmakers.
The rate of maternal mortality for African-American women in our nation’s capital is 59.7 deaths per 100,000 live births vs. 31 deaths per 100,000 live births in Syria, said Sherburne Hawkins, associate professor at Boston College’s School of Social Work, in a report for NBC News.
The death rate in D.C. is also worse than Panama (52) and Ecuador (59).
Nationally, the death rate for Black mothers is 40.8 per 100,000 live births, 3.2 times the rate for White mothers, and still worse than Syria. The data was taken from the Centers for Disease Control’s recent report on maternal mortality, its first on the subject in 10 years.
“There is no war on American soil and we spend more on health care per capita than any other country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development,” Hawkins said. “However, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. continues to be higher than most other high-income countries.”
In general for the U.S., Black women’s chances of dying during childbirth are three to five times higher than any other group of people. Black infants are two to three times more likely to die during childbirth or in the first year of life than any other group of people.
And groups acknowledge that the cause is blatant racism.
“Black infant and maternal mortality is a public health crisis created by implicitly and explicitly biased medical professionals and institutions failing to listen to, understand, and acknowledge the concerns of their Black female patients in the same way that they treat non-Black patients,” the American Public Health Association told InsightNews.com.
FEDERAL HELP NEEDED
While there are many politicians, interest groups, and community advocates working to raise awareness and resources, it’s ultimately going to take federal and state policy changes to overhaul a financially lucrative yet socially inept medical system, InsightNews.com reported.
Former presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) had pledged to address the maternal health crisis within the first 100 days of her possible presidency by tackling the shortage of health care professionals and by developing the “best models of care to address racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality.”
Currently, Klobuchar is a co-sponsor of the Maternal CARE Act Bill introduced by Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in 2019. This bill addresses racial bias in the medical system, introduces bias training to those coming into the medical field, and allocates over $125 million across 10 states to implement programs that reduce maternal health disparities. Unfortunately, this bill seems stuck in Congress’ Subcommittee on Health.
Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is a co-sponsor of the Maternal CARE Act bill and the MOMMA Act created by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL). The MOMMA Act (Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness) has a five-prong approach that establishes national obstetric procedures, standardizes reporting procedures for maternal death, improves culturally competent care, expands Medicare coverage to cover postpartum care up to a year, and shares best practices for mortality review boards.
Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposed a plan in an op-ed for Essence Magazine to diversify the medical field by pushing workforce diversity in hospitals to be reflective of the communities they serve, demanding more from low-performing hospitals, investing more in high-performing hospitals, and providing space for families who have been directly impacted by infant and maternal mortality to have a seat at the table where they can “call the shots” on what’s happening to Black mothers and children in their communities.
Cory Booker (D-NJ) has proposed expanding Medicaid support to cover a mother’s postpartum recovery for the first 365 days after giving birth.
If no action is taken, the CDC statistics indicate that the next four years will see the death of more than 2,800 birth mothers and 88,000 babies, the majority of them Black.