The Big Picture: Disparities in Maternal Health in the US

This will be a short post…I accidentally cut my finger while chopping onions for dinner last night, and typing with a bandaged finger is not super compatible with long posts.

Things I’m thinking about:

The Importance of Understanding and Reversing Disparities in Maternal Health Outcomes

This is a great overview article by  Christine Morton, PhD,  a medical sociologist who has researched, worked and written about disparities in maternal health for many years. Read the whole thing over at Science and Sensibility.

She starts with a shocker:

Maternal mortality is associated with the widest and most persistent disparity (inequality) in all of public health.  African American women have a three to four-fold greater chance of dying as a result of pregnancy than women in any other racial-ethnic group.1The gap between maternal mortality in African American women and women of other racial-ethnic groups is greater today than it was in the 1940s.2

And this:

Some suggestive work in this area was published by Tucker and colleagues from the CDC (2007), who examined the prevalence of five conditions considered major causes of mortality occurring during hospitalization for labor, birth and postpartum. They found that African-American women did not have a higher prevalence of these conditions (preeclampsia, eclampsia, abruption placentae, placenta previa and postpartum hemorrhage) compared to other racial/ethnic groups, but were more likely to die from them, suggesting either a possible difference in the severity of the disease or the quality of care provided during hospitalization.

Which is why I’m supporting this:

“I promise, I will do something this time”: Scholarships for ICTC’s Black Midwives and Healers Conference 2012

And if you need any more inspiration to contribute to this fund…please read my friend K. Heron VIehmann’s powerful words from her graduation speech, given earlier this summer from Birthwise Midwifery School. In fact, you should read the whole blog anyway. It has the best name ever (Bloody Show!) and as she describes it, it explores the intersections of health and race, class, sex, gender, sexuality and disability.

We need more midwives who are willing to tackle the unconscionable disparities in birth outcomes in this country. I’ve been so inspired by her journey, and look forward to walking that path and someday calling her colleague as we work to find creative solutions to improving maternal and infant health care in this country.

Letter of Support for Midwives of Color

I’m reposting this letter of support, drafted by AROM (Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Work in Midwifery).

This letter was drafted by midwives and student midwives who strongly believe that the recent resignation of the Midwives of Color Inner Council of MANA provides a unique opportunity to step up and take personal and collective responsibility for the ways in which midwives of color have been marginalized in this country.

It is worth taking the time to read in its entirety…but here is one excerpt that I think captures our anger, frustration, and deep desire to create radical change in the midwifery community for the sake of improving maternal and child health in this country:

We acknowledge the injustice of the fact that the white-dominated midwifery community continues to regard the health impacts of racism and colonialism as a special interest issue. This is a reflection of cultural dominance and a denial of basic human dignity. We bear witness to the fact that this has isolated midwives of color. It is unjust to expect midwives of color to bear the burden of addressing the problems of racial disparities in maternal and perinatal outcomes. We acknowledge that the dramatically higher rates of infant and maternal mortality for African American and Native American women in the US represent violence against women and children, and we are all responsible for addressing this. Denying the reality of these differences, disputing the causes, and withholding our full attention and energy from the problem constitute acts of gross negligence as midwives. We recognize the need to universalize an understanding of these concepts and integrate them into a shared world-view.

Read the entire letter here.