Black Maternal Health Week 2020
The month of April is recognized in the U.S. as National Minority Health Month, and April 11 – 17 marks the third annual National Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW). Founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), this week is an effort to strengthen and amplify the conversation about Black maternal health. Across the U.S., maternal and infant health disparities between the Black community and others are substantial.
Research has shown in the U.S., Black pregnant women are three to four times more likely to die from complications during pregnancy compared to white women (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). This difference is daunting and is rooted in the history of a racist healthcare system, which has not validated or supported Black experiences. A major reason this gap exists is due to the implicit bias providers may have when delivering care to their Black patients. This problem cannot be treated with a “one size fits all” solution and will require dedicated trainings, increased conversations with Black communities and continued exploration of the factors playing into the existing disparities.
There are various organizations mobilizing in an attempt to address the issue at hand. The National Birth Equity Collaborative offers racial equity trainings for providers directly involved in this type of care in the U.S. The goal of these trainings is to decrease the unconscious bias providers may have when caring for Black pregnant people. Educating providers to unlearn certain practices can directly advance the care being delivered and begin to ameliorate the healthcare system intentionally.
Other organizations, such as the BMMA that founded this movement, are also advocating to spread awareness to folks around the country about the social determinants that play a role in these numbers. By educating individuals about things both in and out of their control, they serve to encourage a change for the better and ultimately propel the current dialogue without placing direct blame on any one source. Furthermore, BMMA has organized to strengthen legislation surrounding this topic. Their efforts to do this actively give a seat at the table to this community during conversations about how to best improve a system that is failing them.
Efforts are also widespread on a community-based level. The Shades of Blue Project works to connect community members to meet, discuss and journal together to incorporate mental health into maternal health. The Shades of Blue Project acknowledges this conversation can impact the health of folks in a traumatic way and it is essential that the efforts to improve outcomes touch various parts of one’s health.
Black and Maternal Health at Howard Brown Health
While the conversation surrounding Black and maternal health is usually centered around heterosexual cisgender women, at Howard Brown we recognize that “maternal” health extends to the health and wellness of any parent. Societal interpretations of maternity are heavily gendered. Trans and gender non-conforming (TGNC) folks are often excluded from spaces related to pregnancy and conversations about maternal health. Pregnancy is often linked to “motherhood,” a presumption that limits maternal spaces to heterosexual cisgender woman and which is exclusive to many other groups, especially trans men. We recognize that the ability to conceive is not limited to any gender expression or identity. It is important to expand the dialogue about maternal health to be more inclusive.
Through services, research, and activism, Howard Brown exists to expand that conversation and eliminate disparities in healthcare experienced by marginalized communities. Howard Brown provides affirming and comprehensive care to support in pregnancy and parenting across all identities, and seeks to amplify underrepresented voices in this area of healthcare.
Check out this list of organizations committed to improving the existing disparities and making big waves in society for Black Maternal Health Week:
- Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA)
- The National Birth Equity Collaborative (NBEC)
- Sista Midwife Productions and the Sista Midwife Directory
- The Shades of Blue Project
- Mama Glow
- The Black Maternal Health Caucus
Howard Brown is proud to celebrate and acknowledge this week. We look forward to continue supporting Black pregnant people in our communities.