Black maternal health, BK Reader
Photo credit: DC Metro Maternity

City data shows: Black women are eight times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than White women.

Photo credit: DC Metro Maternity

On Monday, First Lady Chirlane Mc Cray and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio announced a five-year plan to reduce maternal deaths and life-threatening complications of childbirth among women of color. The plan aims to address implicit bias, increase surveillance, enhance maternity care and expand public education.

According to city data, more than 3,000 women experience life-threatening complications during childbirth, and about 30 women die from a pregnancy-related cause each year in New York City. Black non-Hispanic women are eight times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than White women, much higher than the national average.

Poor maternal health, poverty and inadequate housing are contributing factors, and so are other stressors stemming from structural racism, stated NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

“We know one of the key drivers of racial disparities in maternal mortality is structural racism,” said Bassett. “Decades of inequitable distribution of resources across neighborhoods and unequal treatment within healthcare settings have resulted in racial differences in birth outcomes.”

The city will allocate $12.8 million in funding to go towards four initiatives: engaging private and public health care providers across the city in adopting implicit bias training; supporting private and public hospitals to enhance tracking and analysis of maternal mortality cases to eliminate preventable complications; enhancing maternal care at NYC Health + Hospitals’ facilities; and expanding public education in partnership with community-based organizations and residents.

“The birth of a child should be a joyous moment for all families, and it is unacceptable that in 2018 we have so many Black mothers who are dying because of complications during childbirth,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “This ambitious plan is an example of joining medicine and hospital delivery systems with public health systems to help close health inequities and save the lives of mothers across New York City.”

As part of the five-year plan, the health department will launch a city-wide maternal hospital quality improvement network aimed at developing hospital-specific recommendations to reduce the number of life-threatening complications during and after childbirth. The department will target maternity hospitals in neighborhoods with the highest rates of pregnancy-related complications, including facilities in North and Central Brooklyn.


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