This week, the nation pauses to recognize, reflect upon, and respond to a crisis centuries in the making: The fact that the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, driven by the sad and unacceptable mortality rates among Black mothers, who are 2.5 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.
Black Maternal Health Week, held annually in the middle of National Minority Health Month, presents a notable opportunity to not only take stock of where California sits in the efforts to reduce maternal health disparities, but also to listen and learn from the people who are suffering, including the most vulnerable: Black infants in the United States die at more than twice the rate of white infants.
California is a national leader in the fight to reduce maternal deaths — the rate has been cut by 68% in the past decade and is well below the national average — but the numbers of Black moms dying are still far too high.
That’s why it’s vital that we continue to build on the work hospitals are already doing to address this problem, including:
- The Hospital Quality Institute’s Perinatal Mental Health Learning Community is helping 145 enrolled hospitals strengthen their approaches to maternal mental health in the perinatal period through education, technical assistance, and peer support.
- More than 90% of California’s hospitals participate in the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, which employs data, rapid response analysis, and comprehensive toolkits to improve health outcomes for mothers and infants.
- Many hospitals are engaging in anti-bias training to mitigate the effects of implicit bias on moms and babies.
- Cherished Futures for Black Moms and Babies, a collaboration among hospitals, community-based organizations, public health agencies, and health care workers supported by the Hospital Association of Southern California’s Communities Lifting Communities initiative is working to reduce Black infant mortality and improve Black maternal patient experiences in South Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley.
More can and must be done.
If there’s any silver lining to the COVID-19 crisis and recent heightened awareness of systemic racism, it’s that the conversations about longstanding health disparities are now front and center, and the forum to have uncomfortable discussions is here.
As is the case with any issue that has layer upon layer of complexity and paths toward solution, honest and earnest dialogue will be the first step toward action that can effect meaningful, sustainable, and compassionate change.