The U.S. health care system is plagued with racial inequities that affect people of color and marginalized groups. In particular, maternal health care suffers from these flaws.
According to The Century Foundation, these inequalities include gaps in health insurance coverage, unequal access to health services and poor health outcomes in certain populations.
For example, Black women in the United States experience unacceptably poor maternal health outcomes, including exceptionally high rates of pregnancy-related death and childbearing issues. Black women are faced with structural racism, discrimination and sexism in a health care system not designed to support them.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are three times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women. Moreover, Black women are more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than women of any other race.
From 2019 to 2020, the maternal mortality rate for Black women increased by just over 25 percent, while the rate for white women did not increase significantly, a February 2022 report from the National Center for Health Statistics found.
Most of the deaths among Black women who were seeking maternal health care were preventable and avoidable. For any woman who chooses to become a parent or wishes to increase the size of their family, proper health care is critical for both child and mother.
There are many ways to support Black health. But at its root, structural changes must be made to address disparities that exist within the health care system.
It is crucial to encourage and support Black and Latinx young adults in pursuing medical careers. The first step in improving Black health is to have medical providers that look like patient populations. This allows certain barriers to be broken and help patients relate to their medical teams. It also puts patient advocates in the system.
Additionally, medical providers must work to meet patients where they are. Physically meeting patients in their communities is imperative, as access to proper health care can be an obstacle for certain groups.