The National Partnership for Women & Families and the National Birth Equity Collaborative joined forces to raise awareness about the many factors driving the nation’s maternal health crisis through a 10-bulletin series: Saving the Lives of Moms & Babies: Addressing Racism and Socioeconomic Influencers of Health. The series identifies a variety of broader structural social and economic problems that directly undermine the health and well-being of pregnant people and their infants. Each bulletin summarizes the best evidence available, highlights the effects of these socio-economic issues on Black, Latinx, American Indian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities, and provides concrete recommendations for mitigating their impact and dismantling the root causes. In addition to a ground-breaking summary of how racism directly affects the bodies of moms and babies, the series covers issues such as incarceration, climate change, and immigration policy.
Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, Vice President for Health Justice at the National Partnership, said, “Our communities have been struggling with multiple crises: the COVID pandemic, the economic downturn, and an escalation of racist violence that has been centuries in the making. As a result, more people than ever have been forced to grapple with the outsize impact of the social and economic influencers of health — including how the experience of existing in a Black or Brown body in this country threatens our health in the short and long terms.” Hernández-Cancio added that as decision makers work to rebuild our country the goal can’t be to go back to how things were before. “Whether it was our health care system, our broader economy, or the lived realities of millions of communities across the country — the pre-pandemic ‘normal’ consistently failed us. We are connecting the dots for decision makers to show that we can — and must — do better.”
Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Founder and President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, said, “What we do know is racism, not race, is the driving factor of America’s maternal crisis. These inequalities have been further exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Black women and other women of color face higher COVID-19 mortality rates than white women and are more likely to face elevated risk of exposure to, and contraction of COVID-19 due to a number of increased social risk factors, which are the byproducts of systemic racism in the United States.”
Crear-Perry said effective maternal health policies must require more expansive solutions to address racism across varying levels of power, thereby reducing maternal health disparities. She said, “Solutions that address racism within the health care system include acknowledging racism as a public health threat, addressing provider bias and discrimination through racial equity training and medical school curriculum, expanding access to birth workers by creating more direct training pathways, improving the quality of care at hospitals servicing people of color, addressing social risk factors, including access to safe housing, transportation, education, food security, criminal justice and more, and promoting respectful models of maternity care.”
The organizations held a webinar, attended by several hundred policymakers and advocates, to launch the series and discuss top-level recommendations. Currently, the Saving the Lives of Moms and Babies introductory overview and the first five bulletins, Extreme Heat, Homelessness, Immigration, Paid Leave, and Intimate Partner Violence are online at Moms and Babies.
Additional bulletins on Racism’s Impact on the Body, Maternal Mental Health, Substance Use Disorder, Incarceration, and Built Environment will be released within the next few weeks.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL BIRTH EQUITY COLLABORATIVE
The National Birth Equity Collaborative creates solutions that optimize Black maternal and infant health through training, policy advocacy, research and community-centered collaboration. For additional information, visit birthequity.org.