How California Can Address Maternal Health Disparities

In summary

Despite a range of investments and political activism, maternal mortality rates have risen in recent years, especially among black women. California passed legislation in 2021 to tackle racial disparities in maternal and child health, but proponents say they need transparency, accountability and mechanisms for deeper investment.

Guest commentary writing

Dana Sherrod

Dana Sherrod

Dana Sherrod is co-founder and director of the California Black Birth Justice Coalition and an expert in advancing health and racial equality in hospitals and government agencies.

In 2018, I gave birth to my second daughter. What was supposed to be a beautiful and enjoyable experience for her soon turned into a dire situation requiring an emergency caesarean section under her general anesthesia.

As a result, I was unconscious during the birth and my husband was not allowed into the operating room to attend the birth of the child.

Ten days after giving birth, she started vomiting and had a fever. The surgery resulted in an infection that required a second 3-day hospitalization and time away from the breastfed newborn and the then 4-year-old.

Unfortunately, my traumatic experiences and being laid off during childbirth are still commonplace in the United States. especially among black women.of maternal mortality According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the population will continue to grow in 2021, disproportionately affecting black women.

As a black mother with first-hand experience, I am seething with righteous anger. Despite data, stories, and deaths, we continue to fail mothers, especially black mothers. In Los Angeles alone, our community was rocked by the deaths of two black mothers in the first 90 days of this year. april valentine and Bridget Cromer.

We are sad, angry, frustrated and confused.

In times of despair, when faced with repeated injustices, black women have always picked up the pieces and filled the chasm of the traumatic aftermath in their communities. Today, we continue to take on the immense additional responsibility of advocating for healing and deep, systemic change.

But if we really want to destroy and ultimately reverse inequalities in black maternal and child health, we need what PolicyLink CEO Michael McAfee says.transformative unity

It requires sustained investment in Black-led organizations, new ways of working together, and equity-centered action by policymakers, philanthropists and the health system.

In 2020, in response to the killing of George Floyd and other unarmed black Americans, the Community Foundation donated $125 million Giving to causes that support the black community increased from $78 million in 2019. But that money was mostly short-term, accounting for just 2% of total investment from community foundations, according to the National Charity Commission.

Those of us on the front lines of the black maternal and child health crisis are feeling the effects of the funding gap, as we often lead community-based organizations and nonprofits that are severely underfunded and overcapacity.

Committing to true solidarity means a deeper investment in Black-led organizations, grassroots movements, and maternity workers who demonstrate dedication and connection to this cause. Long-term investments over multiple years can help move the needle by providing sustained resources.

Adhering to true transformative solidarity also means holding health systems accountable for the quality of care provided. in one studyBlack women report higher than average abuse experiences, including being yelled at or scolded and being ignored or denied help when asked.A significant gap still exists in the level of demand Responsible measures To identify and address racism and prejudice within hospitals and healthcare systems.

California leads the nation in its commitment to birth equity, especially for black women. In 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the following agreements: California Monnibus Lawcreated a fund to strengthen the midwifery workforce, extended Medi-Cal coverage to 12 months postpartum, and established an Income Guarantee pilot program that prioritizes low-income pregnant Californians. bottom. But despite the state’s budgetary and legislative victories, these policies must be coupled with transparency and accountability mechanisms.

The day I gave birth, I faced our nation’s shameful legacy of grossly abusing black women in healthcare. For black families to thrive, California must put black voices at the forefront, ensure long-term anti-racism investments, and develop solutions that incorporate both measurability and accountability. there is.

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