The Disparities in Maternal Mortality Rates in the US are Alarming – it’s Time to Act
In addition to her work exploring the intricacies of the FemTech sector, SensisHealth Managing Director Sharon Carothers' article for FEMTECHWORLD highlights the "maternal mortality divide" in the U.S., elucidating the dichotomy between how our country addresses maternal health for White women versus their Black peers.
In a country that is considered both a highly developed and influential nation, it is a shocking fact that the United States "has the worst maternal health outcomes of all high-income countries." Yet, considering our nation’s deeply rooted history of racism, both in our public policies and our private practices, it is unfortunately less surprising that, as Carothers notes, much of the reason for our poor reputation in maternal health is due primarily to the mortality rate of Black American women. Carothers further explains that, in 2020 alone, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was three times higher than that of White women– a staggering "44.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 14.9 for White women."
This is another example of an even wider issue in the US surrounding the quality and access of care among people of color, notably Black women. Not only are Black women in America more likely to live in poverty, but they are also more likely to lack access to proper health care and health resources at large. Even when they have access to healthcare, Black women face another barrier; as Carothers points out, Black women are "often not taken seriously when they report symptoms and are more likely to be dismissed by health care professionals." This creates a wide gap between Black women and the treatments and care they need, whether that be due to the collective racism of our health care industry at large and/or the individualistic racism that they face from their doctors.
In a country that wields as much power, influence, and monetary capitol as the U.S., it should never be true that the mortality rates of any of our mothers are "identical to some of the poorest countries in the world." We have the resources and tools to better maternal care for women of color, both in terms of our pockets and our mindsets. Carothers poignantly states that we need a holistic approach that encompasses and addresses the multiple variables that have led us to this great disparity and systemic failure, whether that be providing better access to healthcare, improving maternal education, addressing the racist roots of the healthcare system, or exploring future technological developments that could facilitate better data sharing and resources among health providers and mothers alike concerning Black maternal care.
For an issue that is both widely social and deeply personal, it will not be a one size fits all solution. But what we can do is pay mind– and money– to the organizations and projects in place working to alleviate the gross disparity in our maternal care; for example, community organization Black Mama's Matter Alliance (BMMA), which seeks to fund and "drive research, advocate and shift culture for Black maternal health, rights, and justice." Whether it be supporting an organization, an app, a study, or a policy, it is urgent that we ask ourselves what action can we take now to address the maternal mortality divide.