"Moms' Crying Need" for Better Maternity Care

September 23, 2009

Women’s eNews currently features a piece, Black Infant Mortality Points to Moms’ Crying Need, which outlines the health disparities and systemic forces that stand between Black women and their babies and health. Author Kimberly Seals Allers argues that “If African American, Latino and Native American babies are too often in jeopardy, that means that this country is miserably failing women of color, and black women in particular, in the process of birthing healthy babies.”

She explains:

African Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control, or the CDC. In 2000, the United States had a national average of 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, but the rate among blacks was 14.1 deaths. Compared to non-Hispanic white infants, black babies are four times as likely to die as infants due to complications related to low birth weight, the CDC also said.

Compounding this problem, she writes, is “what isn’t known about black maternal health” including ob/gyns “who aren’t aware that their black patients are at a greater risk during pregnancy, regardless of their socioeconomic status,” and “a woeful lack of research on the racial and ethnic differences affecting certain diseases and their treatment.”

The entire essay is well worth a read.

In addition to the moral or social justice argument for eliminating health disparities, a recent report on the economic burden of these disparities makes a money-saving argument for eliminating them, estimating that doing so “would have reduced direct medical care expenditures by $229.4 billion,” money that some suggest could be used to pay for health reform. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reportedly responded to the findings: “There is no question that reducing the health disparities can save incredible amounts of money. But more importantly it saves lives and it makes us a healthier and more prosperous nation.”

The agency released it’s own brief report on health disparities earlier this year, “Health Disparities: A Case for Closing the Gap.”

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