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TN Observes First-Ever Black Maternal Health Week

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Tennis star Serena Williams reportedly had problems getting doctors to take her medical issues seriously upon the birth of her child last year. (motivationforgood/Pixabay)
Tennis star Serena Williams reportedly had problems getting doctors to take her medical issues seriously upon the birth of her child last year. (motivationforgood/Pixabay)
April 13, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Black women are three to four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. It's just one startling statistic that has prompted the creation of the nation's first "Black Maternal Health Week," which started on Wednesday.

A group known as the Black Mamas Matter Alliance has launched a nationwide campaign to help address disparities in health care, resources and socioeconomic factors.

Obstetrician and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, Dr. Jamila Perritt cites examples such as lack of access to prenatal care in predominantly black communities, and a lack of job and child-care flexibility to attend doctor's appointments.

"Black women often bear the brunt of these disparities,” says Perritt. “What we know is that it's not race, in and of itself, that makes a difference. It's structural and institutional and historical racism that has the impact."

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, black infants die at a rate more than twice as high as white infants.

On Monday, Healthy and Free Tennessee hosts a documentary screening in Nashville. "Death by Delivery" examines the rising mortality rate of black mothers.

Perritt says some of the institutional racism problems are hard to pinpoint and address within the medical profession.

"When we talk about quality of care, we know that health-care professionals are more likely to make inaccurate assumptions about the ability of black women to utilize health information” says Perritt. “And this reduces the quality of care black women receive, and puts our lives and health at risk."

Tennis star Serena Williams is speaking publicly about her experience with having her daughter and the medical complications that resulted. In published reports, she had to advocate for a CT scan to determine she had blood clots as a result of delivery.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN