Black Maternal Health Week — held annually on April 11th through the 17th — is a week-long campaign founded and led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance to build awareness, activism, and community-building to amplify the voices, perspectives, and lived experiences of Black mothers and birthing people.
Addressing the root of health inequities, especially in maternal health outcomes, begins within our health systems and must center around the voices of patients and their needs. The disparities in health outcomes for Black mothers are alarming. In 2020, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 3 times the rate for White women in the United States.
These disparities exist due to several contributing factors, including lower quality healthcare, structural racism, and implicit bias from healthcare providers, as well as undetected underlying chronic conditions. Health care providers and health systems have a responsibility to better support Black mothers and birthing people in order to address inequities and subsequently contribute to improved health outcomes and decreased health disparities.
Accelerate Health Equity (AHE) is currently conducting a study focused on understanding what physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers can and need to do to achieve more equitable prenatal care. Our goal is to help create a system where patients feel supported through their pregnancy journey, and where patient care is more holistic — how can we ensure that prenatal care goes beyond the clinical? Where can providers fill needed gaps to help connect patients with resources to address all of the aspects of life that affect pregnancy and birth such as food, transportation, and mental health?
In order to achieve our goal, it is necessary to center the patient perspective, as well as the providers, to ensure that our findings help to create change that is achievable and equitable. Though the experience for Black obstetric patients and their health outcomes is our focus, many providers face time and resource strain, making it difficult for them to provide the level of care that they need and set out to. We want health care workers to feel that they have the resources they need to support their patients as a whole person, with a focus on ensuring equitable care.
AHE researchers are currently conducting interviews with obstetric patients and providers to better understand perspectives and preferences on conducting SDoH screenings in a safe, effective, and efficient way. For patients, some of these questions include:
How do their health care providers make them feel?
What are their concerns around experiencing discrimination or racism when they go to doctors?
Who in their doctor’s office would they prefer to talk to about social issues, if not their doctor?
What are the most important social issues that they want their providers to ask them about?
What are their biggest hurdles to conducting effective social needs screenings?
How do they feel when conducting social needs screenings?
How would they prefer to document and follow up on social needs screenings in an effective way?
How do social needs impact pregnancy outcomes and care?
We look forward to publishing our findings, and sharing them widely within the AHE network and beyond. This study can help to spark larger discussions within the health system around Black maternal health, and the critical need to center Black mothers and birthing people, their experiences, and their overall health care needs.
To learn more about this ongoing study, visit our website.