Local health experts highlight health inequities among black pregnant women ahead of Black Maternal Health Week

Black Maternal Health Week kicks off on April 11-17 to bring awareness and action in improving this ongoing crisis.

LITITZ, Pa. — Tomorrow marks the fifth year anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week.

It’s recognized every year from April 11-17 to bring awareness and action in improving black maternal health.

An issue, health experts in central PA say stems from various factors. 

“We have to look at the patient, the provider, the heath care system, the community, everything. All of these things play a significant role,” said Dr. Sharee Livingston, the OBGYN Department Chair at UPMC Lititz.

Dr. Livingston sees the black maternal health crisis daily. 

“We have to take into consideration health inequities. Health inequities are health disparities that are somewhat unjust,” she said.

For example, black people have higher rates of diabetes and hypertension than any other race. 

In addition, black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than their racial counterparts. 

“I was on a call yesterday and I had a black woman say that she’s afraid to get pregnant because black women die when they get pregnant and my heart sunk,” Dr. Livingston said.

To address this ongoing crisis, UPMC launched the Health Equity Now committee. 

Their mission is to decrease maternal morbidity specifically for pregnant women of color. 

“We evaluate the health and wellbeing of all the patients on our units and we make sure we’re practicing safe care, standardized care,” said Dr. Livingston.

But the work doesn’t stop there. 

Dr. Livingston co-founded the Diversifying Doula initiative, their goal is to provide free doula care for pregnant women of color. 

“Having a doula can decrease your C-section rates, decrease pre-term birth rates, increase breast feeding rates and it really decreases post-partum depression,” she explained.

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