Last Thursday afternoon, the Black Maternal Health Caucus (BMHC), composed of Congress members, such as co-founders Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Alma Adams (NC-12), Jackie Speier (CA-14), and Ilhan Omar (MN-5), gathered to hear the opinions of the stakeholders involved in developing a course of action to how to best deal with the issue of discrepancies in the maternal mortality rates for Black women. Many organizations were present, ranging from Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association to SisterSong and the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.
The BMHC was founded on April 9th of this year to increase awareness of Black maternal health and to develop strategies to provide more culturally-competent care. For the United States as a whole, the maternal mortality rate has actually increased by 26% from 2000 to 2014 and currently has the highest mortality rate of the industrialized nations. The outcomes worsen when taking into account race: Black women are three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy complications than non-Hispanic white women. In New York, Black women are 12 times more likely to die from complications.
The range of organizations present showed that solving this issue will require the work of those across many fields as finding a solution is interdisciplinary. CEO and founder of AncientSong, a doula service based in Brooklyn, New York, Chanel Porchia-Albert’s statement focused on the important role that doula’s play in the community and how their skills could be used to aid in the reduction of maternal deaths. Her suggestion to the caucus was to recognize doula’s as a viable healthcare option and to expand Medicaid to cover their services to give patients a wider-range of options when going through childbirth. She also acknowledged how culturally-competent, community-based doulas actually help to reduce the number of deaths associated with childbirth.
Media Resources: Rep. Alma Adams 6/11/19; Rep. Alma Adams 4/09/19; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist; Feminist Newswire 4/17/18