Health Race

New Data on Maternal Mortality Rates Show Extent of Racial Disparities

As of 2018, all 50 states have adhered to a standardized method to report maternal mortality rates, and the recent release of this collection of data highlights the maternal health crisis in the US, particularly among women of color.

In the U.S. nearly 700 women die each year due to complications related to pregnancy or childbirth with large statistical gaps linked to institutional racism. The statistics confirm that out of the developed nations, the U.S. has the worst maternal mortality rates. The chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, Bob Anderson, stresses the importance of this data and what it indicates about the state of the nation. He states that these deaths are “almost entirely preventable” and it reflects public health issues plaguing the U.S.

In addition to this data, racial disparities in death tolls are seen in drastic numbers. Based off the 2018 numbers, black women are dying at a rate two and a half times greater than that of their white counterparts. Of the number of deaths per 100,000 live births in 2018, white women were at 14.7, while black women were at a staggering 37.1. Reasons behind this are linked mainly to structural racism. Institutional racism also contributes to black women’s higher risk of health issues and less accessibility to prenatal care. Many are calling for initiatives that would serve to counteract implicit racism in the healthcare industry.

Researcher’s faith in the accuracy of the data’s degree of certainty shows the extent of the public health crisis and the repercussions of the systematic oppression of black women.

Sources: NBC News 1/30/20; CNN 1/30/20; MedPage Today 1/29/20