Black Maternal Health Week: A Call To Center Black Mamas, Black Maternal Health, Policies and Solutions
April 11-17 marks Black Maternal Health Week, which aims to amplify the voices of Black Mamas, women, families, and stakeholders and center the values and traditions of the reproductive and birth justice movements. It also calls necessary attention to maternal health racial disparities and highlights policies that can address these harms.
According to the CDC, Black women are three times more likely to die from preventable pregnancy-related causes than white women. Many factors contribute to this statistic, such as inadequate access to quality healthcare, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism and implicit bias in the health system.
Structural racism, in particular, compromises the health of Black women, birthing people and their infants. This community often receives poorer quality care than white women, and their heightened risk of pregnancy-related deaths spans income and education levels. Black pregnant patients often reveal traumatic experiences at the hands of healthcare providers who either refuse to administer requisite pain treatment or inflict disrespect and abuse. Structural racism can also contribute to income and wealth inequality which is apparent in unequal access to food, transportation, clean air and water, and high-quality education. These social determinants hugely shape health outcomes due to the lack of resources. The ongoing stress endured by Black women and birthing people can put them at a higher risk for various medical conditions that can threaten their lives during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, including pre-eclampsia and mental health conditions.
To further compound these inordinate stressors and structural barriers to care, only 87% of Black women of reproductive age have health insurance. It is clear: policies must focus on expanding and maintaining access to care and coverage. According to an issue brief by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Black women are more likely to live in the South, where women generally experience poorer health outcomes and where states have chosen not to expand Medicaid coverage. As a result, Black women are left in the coverage gap because they might earn too much money to qualify for traditional Medicaid but not enough to purchase insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace. It is crucial for pregnant people, particularly Black women, to receive care during the first trimester to ensure culturally competent providers address any potential adverse outcomes. Medicaid, in particular, is a crucial source of health insurance for pregnant people because it covers almost half of all births in the country. Medicaid expansion will allow Black pregnant people who fall in this coverage gap to have access to quality care, to be able to utilize health services during critical times during their pregnancies and have improved maternal health outcomes.
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which provides relief from the health, social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. ARPA is a new pathway allowing states to extend Medicaid coverage for pregnant and birthing people from 60 days after birth to cover maternity care up to 12 months postpartum. This option went into effect on April 1, 2022, allowing states to expand coverage by obtaining federal approval for a state plan amendment (SPA) to their Medicaid program. This law is not mandatory but is available for states for up to five years. This Act leaves room for states to close the coverage gap for Black pregnant people by allowing them access to the care they might have lost otherwise. It also can allow for adequate reimbursement for a range of services and providers like doulas, midwives, community health workers, physicians, nurses and dentists.
Although this is a notable change that will benefit Black pregnant populations, advocates must work alongside reproductive justice partners to push for this to be mandatory for all states and continue to be a resource past the five-year mark.
What Can You Do This Week?
Here is a list of some of the activities spearheaded by our reproductive justice advocacy partners during Black Maternal Health Week, where your organization can help to amplify Black maternal health solutions:
Join @BlkMamasMatter Tues. April 12 from 12- 2 pm ET for a virtual symposium during #BMHW22. At the Southeast Regional Black Maternal Health Symposium they will discuss newly released resources and products related to their research & policy activities. Register http://bit.ly/symposiumbmhw22
Join President + CEO of @BlackWomensRJ Marcela Howell,@BlkMamasMatter’s Angela Doyinsola Aina,@BirthEquity’s @doccrearperry and @MamatotoVillage’s @msnedhari on April 12 at 6 PM EST for a Radio One event to discuss how we can end the Black maternal health crisis! Watch on praisedc.com
Tune in during #BMHW22 on 4/13 at 1-2 p.m. ET to hear @VP, @SecBecerra, @RepAdams, @RepUnderwood, @RepPressley, @SenBooker, @drtaylor09, Angela D. Aina, @doccrearperry, @Mark_Zuckerman address maternal mortality among Black women in the US. Register http://bmhw22.eventbrite.com
Join @BlkMamasMatter for their annual #BMHW22 Tweet Chat Wednesday, April 13 at 3:30 p.m. EST! Together we will deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health. Download the official #BMHW22Social Media Toolkit at http://blackmamasmatter.org/BMHW #BlackMamasMatter
Join @SisterSong_WOC and @BlkMamasMatter on April 16 for their annual Black Maternal Health Walk. Meet in Atlanta as we build community with Black mamas, midwives, doulas & loved ones to celebrate Black mamas and commit to Black maternal health! Register: http://bit.ly/bmhwalk22
To close Black Maternal Health Week, @BlkMamasMatter will spotlight their alliance and internal partners as they continue to deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health in the US while amplifying community-driven policy, research, & care solutions. #BMHW22