Black Maternal Death Rates Mark Racism Within The U.S. Healthcare System

The effects of racism seemingly permeate every area of American society. From the U.S. education system to the housing market, discrimination can have damaging effects that can tear down individuals and their families. Nowhere is this more true than the American healthcare system.

During a recent address, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about how racism in the healthcare system can impact families nationwide. Specifically, she spoke about how a lack of proper care can kill Black mothers looking to expand their families.

"Black women are 2-3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. President Joe Biden and I are determined to ensure that Black women can get the care they deserve through pregnancy, childbirth, and post-partum," Harris tweeted.

Researchers in the state of Illinois have dug deeper into racial disparities within Black maternal health care. Studying data from 2006 to 2017, the Illinois Department of Public Health found that Black women in Illinois died from pregnancy-related conditions three times more than white women in Illinois. To combat these rates, the state hopes to expand home visiting programs, educate staff members on bias and recommend health insurance plans cover telehealth appointments. Dr. Jamila Taylor of the Century Foundation has also advocated for expecting Black mothers to be treated by doctors they can relate to.

“We need access to providers who look like us and understand our experiences and stresses so we can talk through these issues,” Taylor told the Chicago Tribune.

“The racism experience causes mental and physical wear and tear on the body, especially for pregnant women. We have to worry about our husbands, children and loved ones being safe and coming home daily. It’s a shame we have to think about those things because of racism.”

Efforts used in Illinois have also expanded to other areas of the country. Hospitals in Mississippi and Texas have started working with Dr. Sarosh Rana to develop "culturally appropriate" healthcare.

“A lot of times the patient is not heard,” Rana explained.

“They need safe spaces to share problems. A great place to start is creating those spaces and having conversations on all levels, starting from residents to the nurses to doctor.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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