Confronting hard truths: How systemic racism affects moms and babies

Health disparities have existed for a very long time in this country, and unfortunately still do. Health disparities means different groups of people have different health status. These differences disproportionately affect socially disadvantaged populations, like minorities.  The persistent health inequities are unfair and unjust and must be addressed.

Although the health of most Americans and their access to health care has improved over the last 25 years, this has not been the case for all groups living in the United States. Historically, Black/African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indian/Alaska Natives, have had worse health outcomes than non-Hispanic whites. Accessing quality health care has been a big challenge for these groups.

Black women in the United States

In the United States, Black women are:

  • Less likely than other women to have access to quality health, prenatal and maternity care.
  • Three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.
  • More likely to be uninsured and have financial barriers to care.

Why are these inequalities happening?

It’s important we continue to look at social factors to better understand the disparities Black women are facing. This includes social determinants of health (conditions in which you are born, grow, work, live and age that affect your health throughout your life), serious types of stress like racism, and the implicit (unconscious) bias that exists in our health care system. Stereotypes, which happens when we put labels or make judgments of people without being aware of it, leads to implicit racial bias. Implicit racial bias can make us act or think in an unfair way towards people or social groups.  The real underlying issue is one of structural racism that has been in existence for years. This is the system in which public policies and institutional practices and norms lead to systematically reinforcing inequities with a group.

Let’s keep this conversation going

As part of our mission, we aim to raise awareness around the barriers and inequities that continue to affect minority groups, including moms and babies of color, and what’s needed to change that.

We’ve talked and written about these inequalities often. We’ve highlighted the alarming trends in maternal health outcomes, the lack of access to maternity care, and how women of color are impacted more by the risk factors associated with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs).

March of Dimes is committed to reducing racial disparities and achieving equity for moms and babies in our country. These are complex issues with complex solutions and that’s why we are continuing this conversation. We hope you’ll join us on Facebook Live for an honest, leadership-led conversation about systemic racism and the need for equity in maternal and infant health. Tune in on Thursday, June 11th at 2 PM EST. Because when a society supports every family, the future is brighter for us all.

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