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Black women are still dying from childbirth in 2022; why?

Black women are still dying from childbirth in 2022; why?
Kara James, nurse practitioner, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (Photo courtesy of LaGrant Communications)

Black women in Los Angeles County are four times more likely to die because of pregnancy and its complications than women of any other race. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Black mothers are dying from preventable causes at rates that continue to rise.

With all the medical and technological advancements that have been made over the years, you’d think that the topic of maternal health would be low on the list of health inequities that impact the African American community. But it’s not. Unacceptably poor maternal health outcomes are a leading cause of death of Black women, and for generations has continuously burdened our women through no fault of our own. These outcomes are largely due to institutional racism.

As a Black mother, activist, and nurse practitioner, I want better for us! We are Queens and deserve to live as such. But before we can do better, we need to know better. And that starts with identifying why the pregnancy-related mortality rate for Black women is so high. Racism, and the lack of access to and knowledge of resources, plays a huge role in contributing to persistent health care inequities in our community. When the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the pregnancy-related mortality rate for Black women who graduated from college was five times as high as White women with similar education, it’s also clear that status and education doesn’t matter.

To address the lack of access to and knowledge of resources in our community, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (PPLA) is meeting our women where we live, work, and play by bringing services to us at their newest Inglewood Health Center. This location also serves as the flagship for the Black Health Initiative, an agency-wide program designed to improve the overall well-being of our communities by empowering us to advocate for ourselves toward better health outcomes.

The Black Health Initiative is working to improve Black maternal health by providing coaching to address chronic conditions before, during, and after pregnancy, acknowledging underlying social needs that impact health, and connecting patients to resources and programs needed to flourish.

As a nurse practitioner with PPLA, I am proud to be a part of a team that understands that delivering patient-centered reproductive and sexual health care with dignity and respect is critical to improving maternal health and addressing the disparities that Black women face.

The Inglewood Health Center reinforces PPLA’s commitment to providing our community with the resources needed to combat health inequities by offering prenatal care, doula services, behavioral health services, contraceptive counseling, birth control, and more. For services not offered at the health center, patients are referred to additional care that is accessible, culturally specific, and supports overall health and well-being.

I urge you to share this information with the women in your life. I want Black women to feel comfortable knowing there are individuals that care about them and their unborn child, and they have a right to feel safe and receive the best care available to all women. Learn more about the Black Health Initiative and the Inglewood Health Center by visiting the location at 905 N. La Brea Ave. or calling 800-576-5544.

The alarming number of deaths of Black women during childbirth and post-partum continue in 2022. We need real, systemic change that provides access to health care in environments where we live and work, and that is more equitable and responsive to our needs. Only then, will Black women be able to achieve optimal health equality.

–Kara James, nurse practitioner, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles 

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