Black Maternal Health Week: Voice and Visibility for Black Maternal Health

The below was written by  Shawana S. Moore, DNP, MSN, CRNP, WHNP-BC. Dr. Moore is Assistant Professor and WHNP Program Director at Jefferson University. She is also on the NPWH Board of Directors. 

The Black Maternal Health Crisis

We are in the midst of a black maternal health crisis. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Black women have 3 to 4 times higher rates of death from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes compared to white women.1
  • Black women are more likely than white women to experience complications from maternal morbidities during pregnancy.1
    • Morbidities may include infections, mental health issues, obesity, diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and cardiovascular conditions.2
    • Morbidities may not result in death. However, they do have the ability to affect one’s quality of life.3

These alarming statistics urge us to take action and increase awareness about black maternal health.

As health care providers, more specifically women’s health nurse practitioners, we will likely cross paths with black mothers at some point in our careers. NPs, more than other providers, serve urban areas and rural communities where needs are greatest. It is essential that we see, hear, validate and advocate for this population of women.

Taking Action

A resolution recognizing “Black Maternal Health Week” was introduced in the Senate in 2018 by Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) as an effort to bring national attention to maternal health care crisis in the black community and the importance of reducing the rate of maternal mortality and morbidity among black women.4 The nation now observes Black Maternal Health Week each year from April 11th -April 17th.

During this awareness week across the United States, campaigns and activities are led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance to amplify the voices of black mothers and center the values and traditions of the reproductive and birth justice movements.5

Resources for Providers

There are many resources available to assist with the care and advocacy for this population. In 2018, Black Mamas Matter Alliance published a Black Paper entitled Setting the Standard for Holistic Care of and for Black Women.6

Critical Components of Setting the Standard for Holistic Care of and for Black Women include: 6

  • Addressing gaps and ensuring continuity of care
  • Affordable and accessible health care
  • Confidentiality
  • Safe and trauma-informed care
  • Care that centers black women and their families
  • Care that is patient-centered and patient-led
  • Culturally congruent and competent care

An additional resource available is Black Mamas Matter Toolkit. This toolkit was released by the Center for Reproductive Rights in partnership with members of Black Mamas Matter Alliance in 2016.7 It serves as a valuable resource for advocates who have an interest in the health and the well-being of black women and girls.7

Critical Components of Black Mamas Matter Toolkit include:7

  • Human rights-based approach to maternal health
  • Identifying the rights of pregnant and birthing parents
  • Information on the corresponding role of government to ensure safe and respectful maternal health care for all

How Providers Can Help

Black Maternal Health Week provides a forum to create awareness and solutions for health disparities affecting the black maternal population. During the week of Black Maternal Health and throughout your career as a health care provider, please challenge yourself to engage and deepen the national conversation about black maternal health in the United States.8 Consider contributing in areas of community-driven policy, research, and care solutions for this population.8 Black women deserve safe and healthy pregnancies and maternal health care.9  Together, we have the power to ensure they receive it.

References

  1. Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Pregnancy-Related Deaths. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-relatedmortality.htm. Accessed April 8, 2019
  2. CDC Foundation. Report from Maternal Mortality Review Committees. A View Into Their Critical Role. Available at https://www.cdcfoundation.org/sites/default/files/upload/pdf/MMRIAReport.pdf Accessed April 8, 2019
  3. Koblinsky M, Chowdhury M, Moran A, Ronsmans C. Maternal Morbidity and Disability and Their Consequences: Neglected Agenda in Maternal Health. Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition. 2012;30(2). doi:10.3329/jhpn.v30i2.11294
  4. Related Bills – S.Res.459 – 115th Congress (2017-2018): A resolution recognizing “Black Maternal Health Week” to bring national attention to the maternal health care crisis in the Black community and the importance of reducing the rate of maternal mortality and morbidity among Black women. Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-resolution/459/related-bills. Published 2019. Accessed April 9, 2019.
  5. Black Maternal Health Week. Apha.org. https://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/apha-calendar/2019/black-maternal-health-week. Published 2019. Accessed April 9, 2019.
  6. Muse S. Setting the Standard for Holistic Care of and for Black Women. Blackmamasmatter.org. http://blackmamasmatter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/BMMA_BlackPaper_April-2018.pdf. Published 2019. Accessed April 9, 2019.
  7. Toolkits – Black Mamas Matter Alliance. Black Mamas Matter Alliance. https://blackmamasmatter.org/resources/toolkits/. Published 2019. Accessed April 9, 2019.
  8. Black Maternal Health Week – Black Mamas Matter Alliance. Black Mamas Matter Alliance. https://blackmamasmatter.org/bmhw/. Published 2019. Accessed April 9, 2019.
  9. Black Women’s Maternal Health:. Nationalpartnership.org. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/health/reports/black-womens-maternal-health.html. Published 2019. Accessed April 9, 2019.

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