Black Maternal Health Week and reducing racial disparities in care
The challenges of pregnancy and childbirth do not fall equally across the U.S. population. Black mothers face a significantly higher risk when pregnant, in childbirth and postpartum. Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) brings needed attention to this grave inequity.
Founded by Black Mamas Matter Alliance, BMHW is a week of awareness, activism, and community-building aimed at amplifying the voices of Black Mamas and centering the values and traditions of the reproductive and birth justice movements. It takes place every year from April 11 –17 and was officially recognized by the White House in 2021.
The statistics about Black maternal health disparities are alarming. Approximately 700 women die each year in the U.S. as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications. Black women are 3-5 times more likely to have a maternal death than white women in the United States. In 2020, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.9 times the rate for non-Hispanic white women. Research indicates also that 22% of Black women receive a lower quality of care than white women and are subject to discrimination in the healthcare field.
These inequities are not the result of individual failings. They are the result of systems working unevenly across different populations. This means we need systemic solutions to help alleviate the gaps in Black maternal health and Regence is taking steps to be a part of the solution.
Last year, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) set a goal to reduce racial disparities in maternal health by 50% in five years as a part of its National Health Equity Strategy to confront the nation’s crisis in racial health disparities. Regence supports this goal and participates in the process by collecting data for the BCBSA goal tracking.
In addition to aligning with the BCBSA 5-year goal, Regence is working internally on health equity initiatives. The first of which is enhancing the provider search capabilities for our members. Studies have shown that the patient-provider relationship improves when patients see similarities between themselves and their providers. By expanding our demographic data capabilities in the provider search, we are helping members find providers they feel most comfortable with to address their health care needs.
We know that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a community to support pregnant women. With Black mothers impacted disproportionately to other mothers, our community needs to focus our support on them. Black Maternal Health Week is an opportunity to raise awareness about racial disparities in maternal health and recommit to closing the maternal care gap in the United States.