Black Maternal Health Month: Health disparities persist in NE
Friday, October 20, 2023
Maternal mortality, or death from pregnancy-related issues, nearly doubled in the U.S. between 2018 and 2021 - and a person who is Black is three times more likely to die from these issues than one who is white. Nebraska ranked 17th
for maternal mortality, with a higher rate than the national average during those years.
Ashlei Spivey, executive director of the organization "I Be Black Girl," which works in Nebraska for reproductive justice, said data show some practitioners take Black patients' complaints of pain less seriously, with some erroneously believing Black people have a higher pain tolerance.
"How can we make sure medical practitioners - no matter if they're the OB or the phlebotomists - are getting cultural awareness training, that they're being in tune to the experiences of all the different types of patients that they're seeing, especially their Black patients,?" she said.
Awareness-raising events during this Black Maternal Health Month will culminate with a Reproductive Justice Summit on October 27th. Spivey said the speakers and breakout sessions will cover a number of issues that affect "reproductive well-being," including housing, transportation and wages. The keynote speaker will be renowned activist, author and professor Angela Davis. Registration closes after today.
Spivey said one of the steps they're taking is working with partner agencies to increase the number of doula-friendly
hospitals in the state.
"They're a trained companion that can help, and know that pregnant person more intimately," she explained. "And so they know this is this person's birth plan, how can we make sure that it's honored, and help that person have power and choice when working with their medical team - to address some of the things around not being heard."
Research shows doulas have a positive impact for both mothers and babies, and several states now include Medicaid coverage for doula care.
Spivey sees the "transactional" nature of U.S. healthcare - factors like insurance billing, what's covered and what isn't, and how many patients a practitioner is expected to see in a day - as contributing to the risks for patients.
"I think we need to remove that as transactional and really spend time with people, understanding what they're needing, and also making sure people feel empowered to hold doctors accountable. You know, people feel like they're the experts - they don't want to question," she continued.
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