In the United States, we have some of the most prestigious hospitals in the world. We have access to advanced technology and treatments that save lives. So why are women, specifically women of color, still dying due to childbirth?
Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the care they need during pregnancy and during and after childbirth. The disparities in maternal health in this country are clearly racial and have only been getting worse over the years. It’s well past time to solve this problem—but how?
First, Educate Yourself on the Racial Maternal Mortality Issue
If this is the first time you’re hearing about the disparities in maternal mortality, then you’re definitely not alone. Many people simply aren’t aware that these disparities exist. That’s why it’s so important to learn the facts for yourself and to share them with others in your life.
Over time, as we gain a greater understanding of health and technology, we should logically lose fewer mothers and babies each year. But the truth is that maternal mortality has gotten worse in the past few decades, rising more than 25% between 2000 and 2014.
Around 700 women in the United States die from pregnancy or childbirth complications annually. But while white, Hispanic, and Asian women have relatively similar mortality rates, the rate for Black women is three times higher than the rate among white women. American Indian/Alaska Native women are also at a much higher risk of mortality.
The only way to solve this problem is to build awareness and to demand action. There are strong cultural biases at work that put women of color at risk during what should be a joyful time in their lives. Nothing will change unless people understand the problem and fight to solve it.
Spread Awareness Online and In Person
Women should not be dying from preventable pregnancy-related complications; it’s as simple as that. Now that you know just how severe the racial disparities are in maternal mortality, it’s time to share your knowledge. Spreading awareness is an important step in creating change. There are lots of ways you can educate others on the inequality that is causing this problem.
Social media is a great tool for spreading awareness. You can share statistics and anecdotes from people who have been affected by these disparities. Be sure to get your information from reliable sources and engage in dialogue when appropriate. You should also educate your friends and family about these issues in person to create more interest and awareness.
Support Politicians and Policies Looking to Help
Politicians are in a strong position to drive change. They create policies that could help eliminate racial disparities in maternal health. But in order to drive legislative change, we need to elect the politicians who are invested in this issue.
Aside from voting for politicians who have pledged to fight for healthcare equality (which is crucial), you can offer your support in other ways. Donate to their campaigns and/or volunteer your time to call voters and engage with prospective voters. Many candidates struggle with getting enough resources for their campaigns, so do your part and ensure that your voice is heard.
Advocate for Cultural Empathy From Our Healthcare Workers
We live in a rich and diverse culture with many different languages, religions, customs, and beliefs. While this contributes to the strength of our country, it can be a challenge in healthcare settings for communication purposes, particularly if nurses and doctors haven’t developed their cultural competence skills.
Racial disparities in maternal health often occur because of stereotypes, language barriers, and physicians not taking their patients seriously. Women may not be able to advocate for themselves, and if their healthcare team isn’t empathetic or sensitive to their unique needs, they may not get the care they need.
It is crucial for today’s medical professionals to develop their communication, cultural competence, and other “soft skills” in order to care for their patients effectively. We need to collectively advocate for this kind of training both in the standard education system for doctors and nurses and in the clinical setting on an ongoing basis.
It’s simply unacceptable in this day and age that we lose so many women and babies in the United States. To solve this problem, we need to direct our outrage toward awareness and action. We can’t save every mother, but we can reduce racial disparities and keep the maternal mortality rate as low as possible.