Throughout the month of February, we celebrate Black History Month in the United States. It’s a time to honor the wonderful contributions made by African-Americans and their impact on communities across the country. Although we celebrate these great accomplishments, it’s important that we remember they were not without their challenges— many of which still exist today and are affecting the health of Black women living in the U.S.
Fighting for health equity
History reminds us that Black women have faced many health injustices. Today Black women continue to fight for health equity. In this country, Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes compared to white women. They are less likely than others to have access to quality health, prenatal and maternity care and more likely to be uninsured and have financial barriers to care.
In addition, as we learned from the 2019 March of Dimes Report Card, the preterm birth rate among Black women is 49 percent higher than the rate among all other women. Black babies are also experiencing significant disparities—the rate of low birthweight and infant mortality (death) are higher for Black infants than for white infants.
Many pregnancy complications can be prevented through regular health care before, during and after pregnancy. But not every woman in the U.S. gets good maternity care. One reason for this may be that many women live in a maternity care desert. This is an area where there are not enough hospitals, health care providers or health care services for pregnant and postpartum women. More than 5 million women in the U.S. live in a maternity care desert.
Beyond these factors, we also know there are social factors that must be looked at to better understand the disparities Black women are facing. This includes social determinants of health, serious types of stress like racism, and the implicit bias that exists in our health care system. Implicit racial bias happens when we put labels or make judgment of people without being aware of it. Implicit racial bias can make us act or think in an unfair way towards people or social groups.
March of Dimes is committed to reducing racial disparities in our country. Through our advocacy work at the federal, state and local level, we promote health equity by addressing social determinants of health, racism and unfairness so every pregnancy and every baby can be healthy. Our priorities include:
- Ensuring access to health care for all moms and babies. We advocate to expand access to Medicaid, including extended coverage for moms after delivery.
- Support policies and programs to help prevent maternal mortality, with a focus on health equity.
- Advancing policies to support moms and reduce health disparities in the workplace.
What you can do
You can take action now and help us fight for the health of all moms and babies. Advocate with Black women by:
- Visiting marchofdimes.org/blanketchange to learn more about what you can do to help every pregnant woman in America get the care she needs.
- Joining the March of Dimes advocacy network to support legislation that can help protect all moms and babies.
- Signing on to the March of Dimes Prematurity Collaborative Birth Equity Consensus Statement to encourage others to apply the social determinants lens to research, policy and practice.