African American families experience the death of a new mother three to four times more often than white families. Public health experts estimate that half of these deaths are avoidable and the ratio has not changed since the 1940s. At the same time, African American mothers' rates of breastfeeding remain relatively low, a missed opportunity to improve the health of mothers and infants. This series explores how the health system influences what is termed "health disparities."
The daily experience of racism in the United States, and its ramifications, are central to each story in the Healthy Births, Health Moms series. For more than five years we have reported on the systemic racism in the care of pregnant African American women; revealing the stories and the data that indicate specific ways that the U.S. health care system fails to provide the evidence-based care, including preventive care, that would improve birth outcomes and support breastfeeding for black women across America.
Through reporting and writing by Women's eNews' team, we have uncovered the central fact that extremely little research is available that would explain the disparities, although pre-existing conditions, income, education and type of insurance coverage have been ruled out. As reporter Belle Taylor McGee wrote: "We simply don't know why black moms die more often."
We also reported that the maternal mortality rate for Texas has quadrupled over the last 15 years to 24.6 out of 100,000 births in 2010, from 6.1 per 100,000 live births in 1996, according to a report last year from the state's Department of Health Services. And we documented that the vast majority of Baby Friendly hospitals in the United States, that is, those certified by the World Health Organization as supportive of breastfeeding, are located in predominately white communities, leaving African American citizens without the maternal health support they need.
This series is made possible with support from the Kellogg Foundation.