RACIAL DISPARITIES IN MATERNAL MORTALITY

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By Bob Katzen

The House 159-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would create a special 23-member commission to examine and make recommendations to reduce or eliminate racial disparities in the death of mothers before, during and after childbirth.

The commission would look for problems and solutions by examining evidence-based practices, including approaches taken by other states or grass-roots organizations to reduce or eliminate racial disparities in maternal mortality or severe maternal morbidity; barriers to accessing prenatal and postpartum care, how that care is delivered and the quality of that care; and how historical and current structural, institutional and individual forms of racism, including implicit bias or discrimination, affect the incidence and prevalence of maternal mortality in communities of color.

“Tragically in the commonwealth, black women are twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes and have twice the rate of maternal morbidities as white women,” said Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton), one of the bill’s sponsors. “These inequities are the result of generations of systemic racism in health care. This legislation offers a long overdue opportunity to begin righting this wrong. As leaders in state government, and personally for me as a nurse, I believe it is incumbent upon us to do everything we can to ensure all Massachusetts mothers are healthy and thriving.”

The 23-member commission would include the House and Senate chairs of the Committee on Public Health, a member of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Ellen Story Commission on Postpartum Depression. Others include a midwife, an obstetrician and a gynecologist; two members from a community of color; and a person who has lost an immediate family member to maternal mortality.

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