Posts Tagged ‘health disparities’

Premature Birth Report Cards grades are not so good this year

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

The 2018 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Cards are in and the grades aren’t good. The United States received a disappointing grade “C.”

March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Cards monitor progress in reducing the number of babies born prematurely in the United States each year. The Report Cards grade all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico on their preterm birth rate, as well as the nation as a whole. The Report Cards also show racial, ethnic and geographic disparities (differences) in premature birth in each state. Premature birth is birth that happens early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies are more likely than babies born on time to have health problems at birth and later in life.

The number of babies born prematurely has increased for the third year in a row in the United States. Every two seconds a baby is born prematurely in our country. More than 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the U.S. each year, and more than 20 percent of them are born to black women.  Premature birth and its complications are the largest contributors to babies dying in the first year of life. We need to come together as a community to create awareness and find solutions that help moms and babies be healthy.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the overall United States preterm birth rate rose from 9.85 in 2016 to 9.93 in 2017. Compared to rates in 2016, in 2017:

  • 30 states had a worse rate
  • 6 states stayed the same
  • 16 states improved their rate

There is no single cause of premature birth, but research shows that unequal access to quality health care does have a negative impact on these rates. This was revealed in a recent March of Dimes report showing how certain counties in the United States don’t have access to maternity care. Communities with higher poverty rates tend to have less access to quality maternity care. These and other factors contribute to the continued increase in premature birth in this country.

Although we don’t know all the causes of premature birth, March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies by:

  • Working to ensure women have access to health checkups before, during and after pregnancy
  • Providing programs that help more women have access to care, like group prenatal care
  • Educating families and communities to help women have healthier pregnancies
  • Supporting moms through every stage of the pregnancy journey, even when things don’t go as planned
  • Researching the causes of premature birth
  • Advocating for policies to protect moms and babies and give them the best possible start
  • Helping the voices of all women and families be heard

Find out your state’s grade and visit marchofdimes.org/blanketchange to learn more about what you can do to help every pregnant woman in America get the care she needs.

Do you live in a maternity care desert?

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Maternity care is the health care women get during pregnancy, labor and birth and in the postpartum period after giving birth. Getting quality maternity care can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. But not every woman in the U.S. gets good maternity care. One reason for this is because they live in a maternity care desert. A maternity care desert is an area where there are not enough hospitals, health care providers or health care services for pregnant and postpartum women.

A new report from March of Dimes shows where maternity care deserts exist and how they affect the health of moms and babies. Here are some of the findings:

  • More than 5 million women in the U.S. live in a maternity care desert.
  • About 1,085 counties in the U.S. have hospitals without services for pregnant women.
  • Almost 150,000 babies are born to women living in maternity care deserts.
  • Counties with maternity care deserts have a higher number of people living in poverty.

Maternity care deserts are a problem for all of us.

Having good quality and on-time health care services can help women have healthier pregnancies and babies. Through health checkups, a provider can spot health conditions and treat them before they become serious. Women who live in maternity care deserts may be at higher risk of having serious health complications and even death. Babies who are born prematurely or with special health conditions may not get the medical care they need in counties with maternity care deserts. The health of moms and babies is at risk when they live in counties with maternity care deserts.

The United States is facing a maternal health crisis.

More than 700 moms died due to pregnancy-related causes this year alone, making the United States one of the most dangerous places in the developed world to give birth. Women of color are most at risk of facing life-threatening complications. Black women are three times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy-related causes. More than 50,000 women have a near-miss (nearly die) from severe complications from labor and childbirth every year.

What can you do?

You can take action now and help us fight for the health of all moms.

Stacey D. Stewart speaks to Congress about maternal death

Friday, September 28th, 2018

March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart spoke before the U.S. Congress yesterday (September 27, 2018). She urged lawmakers to pass legislation to help prevent the death of women from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The United States is facing a maternal health crisis, making our country one of the most dangerous places in the developed world to give birth.

Stewart started her testimony by showing the members of Congress a hospital receiving blanket used to wrap a baby after birth. She said, “any of us with children will never forget that first moment when the doctor placed our precious baby boy or girl in our arms, wrapped warmly in one of these blankets.” Then she explained that more than 700 times a year a mother dies, leaving a baby without a mom to hold him.  Each year in the United States, 700 families face the devastating experience of losing a mom due to a pregnancy-related death.

Stewart also talked about another alarming problem affecting even more families and moms. In the United States every year, more than 50,000 women have a near-miss (nearly die) from severe complications from labor and childbirth. The emotional and disturbing effects of these experiences distress women and families sometimes for a lifetime.

In the United States almost every measure of mom and baby health and wellbeing is getting worse:

Stewart also highlighted how racial disparities are affecting Black women in our country. “Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women— a truly shocking and appalling disparity,” she said.

We all must address this public health crisis. Help us lead the fight for the health of all moms and babies. Join the March of Dimes advocacy network and take action now to support legislation that can help protect all moms and babies. And learn about the signs and symptoms of health complications after birth to help you know when something’s not right. Knowing what to look for can help save your life. And sharing this information may help save others.

March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart urges Congress to take action to save moms’ lives

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

Each year in the United States 700 women die from pregnancy-related causes and more than 50,000 have a near-miss (nearly-die) from severe complications from labor and childbirth. The U.S. is one of the most dangerous places in the developing world to give birth. This is simply unacceptable.

March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart speaks to the House of Representatives about the maternal and child health crisis happening in our country. Stewart testifies about the urgent need for legislation that can help save moms’ lives. Watch now!

What you need to know about maternal death

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

We are facing a maternal health crisis in the United States. More and more women are dying from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. This is especially true for women of color. Black women have maternal death rates over three times higher than women of other races. This is simply not acceptable, and we will not stand by as this trend continues. You can take action now to fight for the health of all moms.

What’s the difference between pregnancy-related death and maternal death?

You may have heard these terms in the news lately. Pregnancy-related death is when a woman dies during pregnancy or within one year after the end of pregnancy from problems related to pregnancy. Maternal death is when a woman dies during pregnancy or up to 42 days after the end of pregnancy from health problems related to pregnancy. Regardless of the term or timeframe, the death of a mom is tragic with devastating effects on families.

Who is most at risk?

About 700 women die each year in the United States from complications during or after pregnancy. Black women in the United States are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. This difference may be because of social determinants of health. These are conditions in which you are born, grow, work, live and age that affect your health throughout your life. These conditions may contribute to the increase in pregnancy-related death among black women in this country.

The risk of maternal death also increases with age. For example, women age 35 to 39 are about two times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as women age 20 to 24. The risk for women who are 40 and older is even higher.

What you can do

If you’re pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant or sharing this news with someone you love, regular health care before, during and after pregnancy helps women and health care providers find health problems that can put lives at risk. Learning warning signs of complications can help with early treatment and may prevent death.

Always trust your instincts. If you’re worried about your health or the health of someone who is pregnant, pay attention to signs and symptoms of conditions that can cause problems during pregnancy. A health care provider or hospital is your first line of defense.

Take action today

You can help us lead the fight for the health of all moms and babies. Take action now to support legislation that can protect the women you love and prevent maternal death. We need thousands of voices to persuade policymakers to pass laws and regulations that promote the health of women, babies and families. You also can make a donation to level the playing field so that all moms and babies have the same opportunity to be healthy. And learn about the signs and symptoms of health complications after birth that can save lives.

Mental health matters for moms

Friday, July 20th, 2018

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health, people from racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely than people who aren’t minorities to get treatment for mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression.  So what’s causing this difference?

  • Social determinants of health. These are conditions in which you’re born, grow, work, live and age that can affect your community, education, income and your relationships with your partner, family and friends.
  • Less access to services. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. are less likely to have access to mental health services than other groups and are more likely to receive lower quality care.
  • Ethnic background. Because of cultural beliefs and traditions, some people may They may be afraid to talk to their health care provider or to ask for help.

Mental health awareness is especially important for all women during and after pregnancy. In the United States, about 1 in 10 women (10 percent) has signs or symptoms of depression. About 1 in 7 women (about 15 percent) have depression at some time during pregnancy and the year after pregnancy. Depression before or during pregnancy is different than postpartum depression (also called PPD). PPD is a kind of depression that some women get after pregnancy.

What you need to know:

  • Learn the signs and symptoms of depression and postpartum depression.
  • If you think you have depression or PPD, tell your health care provider.
  • If you’ve had depression before, you’re more likely than other women to have depression during pregnancy.
  • If you’re pregnant and taking an antidepressant, tell your provider right away. Don’t stop taking it without talking to your provider first.

Here are some helpful resources:

Treating for two: Safe medication use in pregnancy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Depression during and after pregnancy: A resource for women, their families and friends from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Maternal and Child Health

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness, 800-950-NAMI (6264)

National Institute of Mental Health

For the third year in a row, more babies are being born too soon.

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

According to recent data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, the preterm birth rate in the U.S. rose in 2017. This is the third year in a row with an increase. In 2015, the rate increased to 9.63 percent, in 2016 to 9.85 percent, and in 2017 to 9.93 percent. This is a very alarming trend.

The data also shows great disparities among racial and ethnic groups. The most significant increase in the preterm birth rate was seen among non-Hispanic black women and Hispanic women, while the rate among non-Hispanic white women was essentially unchanged. Babies who are born too soon may face more health problems or need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born on time. Some of these babies also have long-term health effects, like problems that affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision. These problems are affecting more babies whose moms are black or Hispanic.

At March of Dimes, we recognize an urgent need for new solutions to address the serious problems of premature birth. We are working hard to help close the racial and ethnic gaps in preterm birth rates and achieve equity in birth outcomes. We won’t stop advocating, searching for answers or supporting all moms and babies. All babies deserve the best possible start in life and the opportunity to thrive and be healthy.

To learn more visit: marchofdimes.org

Healthy babies across the life course: Past reflections and future progress during National Minority Health Month

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

By Kweli Rashied-Henry, March of Dimes Director of Health Equity

Frederick Douglass once said “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” As a country, we have made tremendous strides in the health of all populations since this famed abolitionist spoke these words in the mid-19th century. Overall life expectancy has increased and infant death before the age of one has declined. However, health is still experienced disproportionately in the United States.

Nearly twenty years ago, April was established as National Minority Health Month to encourage health and health equity partners and stakeholders to work together on initiatives to reduce disparities, advance equity, and strengthen the health and well-being of all Americans. In the U.S., racial and ethnic disparities (or inequities) in preterm birth are worsening. Black women are about 50 percent more likely to give birth prematurely compared to other women and their babies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday compared to babies born to white women. This stark reality signals the need for health equity, which means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. It also signals the need for healthy moms before, during and after pregnancy.

Being healthy across the course of one’s life is essential for having a healthy baby in the future. Most of us recognize the importance of prenatal care during pregnancy. Experts also advise screenings for medical and social risk factors, providing health education, and delivering effective treatment or prevention plans as a set of practices that could improve health prior to conception. Women and men of reproductive age who improve their preconception health can increase their likelihood of having a healthy baby if and when they desire. In short, healthy moms and dads can lead to stronger babies. Yet disparities can be stubborn and may require more than simply changing behavior.

According to the Office of Minority Health, your zip code can be a predictor of your health. In other words, your place of birth, where you work and play, your income and education, and a host of other factors – in addition to the choices you make each day about what to eat, when to work out and whether or not to see a doctor can impact your health. These factors are often referred to as the “social determinants of health,” and they contribute to health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in America. “Addressing the social determinants is key to ensuring that every baby is born healthy regardless of wealth, race or geography.”

According to the Pew Research Center, rapid growth among minority populations is projected by 2050.  If this trend holds, many of tomorrow’s parents will come from communities that share a disproportionate burden of preterm birth and infant death. Although advances in medicine and technology were likely responsible for much of the improvements in these health outcomes in the U.S. over the years, it is also likely that the collective actions of everyday people has helped us realize that better health is not just for ourselves but for future generations. Looking back on this progress can surely help us look forward to what it will take for our babies to continue to grow and thrive.  National Minority Health Month is a special occasion for us to acknowledge the struggles that continue to evade us and what’s needed to support future generations.

Health disparities in premature birth

Friday, April 14th, 2017

In the United States, rates of preterm birth, low birthweight, and infant mortality are higher for black, non-Hispanic infants than for white, non-Hispanic infants. These differences, or disparities, Baby w pacifierbetween races and/or ethnicities have a great impact on the health and well-being of families.

What we know

  • Premature birth is when a baby is born too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • While the overall preterm birth rate in 2013 was 11.4%, the rate was higher among non-Hispanic black infants (16.3%) compared to non-Hispanic white infants (10.2%). This means that the preterm birth rate for black infants was 60% higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white infants.
  • 11.3% of Hispanic infants were born prematurely. Hispanic women account for about 1 out of every 4 premature births in the US (23.2%). The preterm birth rate among Hispanic women is falling more slowly than the rate in the non-Hispanic white population and the non-Hispanic black population.
  • The number of black infants born at a low birthweight (a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) was almost twice that of white infants and Hispanic infants.
  • The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. The rates of infant mortality are higher for babies born before 37 weeks and at a low birthweight.
  • A recent study published by the CDC, showed that from 2005 to 2014, infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives. But babies born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.

We don’t know why race plays a role in premature birth.

Even when researchers compare women of different races and ethnicities and remove any known risk factors in their analysis (such as smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure), the disparities in the rate of premature births still exist.

Researchers at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative are trying to better understand health disparities. Dr. Irina Buhimschi has found that there is a population of Somali women in the US with a low rate of premature birth—as low as or lower than white women. Dr. Buhumschi and her team are trying to determine what makes this population different. “We believe a variety of genetic, environmental and social factors are involved in preterm birth. From stress and resilience, to diet and lifestyle, to vaginal and gut bacteria, we will comprehensively study why Somali-American women have lower rates of preterm birth.” Dr. Buhimschi then hopes to develop a plan that can help all populations reduce their chances of premature birth.

You can read more about Dr. Buhimschi’s research here.

The March of Dimes supports research, community programs, and advocacy policies that try to reduce health disparities and make sure that all babies have a healthy start in life.