Black Maternal Health Week shines light on racial disparities in healthcare


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It’s Black Maternal Health Week and the pandemic is shining a light on racial disparities throughout the healthcare system. 

Childbirth should be safe for all, but for many, that’s not the case. Rochester’s Black Nurses Association spoke to News 8 about why Black Maternal Health Week is so important. 

“We have a 3-4 time higher rate of death, maternal death, when it comes to delivery versus our white peers or hispanic peers,” said Ja’Mia Hewitt MSHA, BSN, RN.  

That statistic is one of many reasons health experts say Black Maternal Health Week is so important to recognize and bring attention to. 

“60 percent of these deaths are preventable and we have so much work to do. That’s the importance of Black Maternal Health week, to really shine a light on this disparity so that way we can help close this gap,” Hewitt said. 

Access to insurance, poverty, education and not feeling comfortable are all barriers to equal care for black women. 

“They talk a lot about not being heard. That they feel marginalized. That there are delays in the care. Often times you’re voicing a complaint and it’s minimized,” said Dr. Celia McIntosh, a nurse practitioner and Black Maternal Health Committee Chair. “If you’re going somewhere where someone has any sort of bias towards you, you’re not going to be comfortable going there, you’re not going to trust the care.” 

Feeling unheard is one of the main reasons Rochester’s Black Nurses Association started the “See Her” Campaign.  

“We want our providers, we want our nurse practitioners, we want our APPs, our nurses, we want everyone to see the patient. See her for who she is. She her in that moment and hear what she is saying in that moment,” Hewitt said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is adding fuel to the flame. Dr. McIntosh says it’s a crisis in a crisis. 

“They found that expectant mothers are more likely to be admitted to ICU’s, receive invasive ventilation, and are]aren’t increased risk of death compared to non-pregnant women,” Dr. McIntosh said. 

She also said that unequal care expands beyond the hospital. “When they do discharge instructions, they are not giving them the adequate information where they would explain to some other mothers, they are just kind of sticking the paper in their face or on the table or something.” 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand also announced Friday two pieces of legislation to address the disproportionate rate of maternal deaths among black women and to help eliminate racial bias in care.

President Joe Biden also proclaimed this week as Black Maternal Health week and called on all Americans to raise awareness of the state of Black maternal health in the U.S. 

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