What we were reading during Black Maternal Health Week

By Yara Altaher and Jocie Fifield

Last week was Black Maternal Health Week (April 13-17), and it has been equally illuminating and hopeful to read the myriad articles that were published last week about centering Black mamas. We were reminded that in the United States our healthcare system continues to reinforce health disparities and implicit biases. Yet, the articles and learnings that emerged last week felt hopeful because Black Maternal Health Week provides a sense of community and actionable resources needed to raise awareness. With Black Mamas Matter Alliance sponsoring the third annual Black Maternal Health Week, awareness was also coupled with solutions – policies, research, and community building.

My colleague Jocie and I have sorted through articles we enjoyed reading during Black Maternal Health Week. Below is a list of a few of those articles that we believe are important to highlight as we continue to raise awareness beyond Black Maternal Health Week.  

Happy reading!

We Can’t Let Up The Fight To End The Black Maternal Health Crisis, Especially Right Now, by Sen. Kamala Harris, April 14, 2020
COVID-19 in Pa.: During This pandemic, we must address Pa.’s Black maternal health crisis, April 14, 2020

Both of these articles emphasize the pressing need to center attention on Black maternal health during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was so inspiring to learn more about the solutions being advocated for within a political context. For example, Senator Kamala Harris, in partnership with Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus as a package of bills with aims to address systematic health disparities and implicit biases by focusing on the social determinants that affect maternal health outcomes. The second article also discusses Rep. Morgan Cephas’s (D-PA) four-bill package that includes proposals such as implementing implicit bias training among healthcare providers and extending Medicaid services to support the postpartum period, in Pennsylvania.

Black Maternal Health Week: Black Women On The Front Lines Discuss Sisterhood, Mission, by Joia Crear-Perry & Alexis McGill Johnson, April 13, 2020

This article is jointly authored by Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Founder and President of The National Birth Equity Collective and Alexis McGill Johnson, Acting President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. With ties back to their undergraduate days, Crear-Perry and McGill Johnson reflect on how they came to work in reproductive health and call attention to the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020 as well as the disparities that are emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bonus: there’s an embedded video of Dr. Crear-Perry talking to Daniel Dawes – author of the Political Determinants of Health – about the historical context that has led to the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on communities of color.

First Person: A Black Mama Standing Up for Maternal Health, by Chantal Bonitto, April 15, 2020

This article, written in first-person, describes the systematic discrimination experienced by a Black mama and the lack of support she experienced from her primary health care providers during her first pregnancy. As an expectant mother during the pandemic, she goes on to explain the mindful choices she has had to make and the potential barriers she may encounter during her second birthing experience. This was such a moving narrative because it highlights the disparities and biases that exist within our healthcare system and what it means to provide respectful care and treat every person with dignity.

During a global health pandemic, it’s more important than ever to protect black mothers, by Anne Branigin, April 14, 2020

This article in The Root provides a succinct overview of Black maternal mortality in the United States and how the effects of coronavirus are exacerbated in communities of color due to existing structural racism. The author highlights policy initiatives underway that address maternal health and the importance of maintaining focus on them.

NATAL stories

Technically I didn’t read this one, I listened to it! NATAL – a podcast docuseries – launched with a prelude and trailer during Black Maternal Health and the first episode is available today. NATAL will share stories of Black pregnant and birthing parents in the United States. With our shared goal of using narrative for social change, I am so excited to follow along. They also have a blog and list of relevant resources, and their illustration is beautiful!

Black Obstetrician-Gynecologists Talk About Improving Black Maternal Health, by Camille A. Clare and Washington Hill, April 14, 2020

Both authors, alongside other African American obstetricians and gynecologists as part of the National Medical Association, recognize the pivotal responsibility of health care professionals to tackle healthcare disparities. As someone who truly appreciates action-oriented solutions, this article provides a list of multi-level recommendations to improve Black women’s maternal health with focus on systematic factors, such as unconscious bias and institutional racism.

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