The second Starting Early Begins With… speaker series discussion painted a grim and preventable reality that exists for new Black mothers and their babies. The United States continues to report the highest rates of maternal mortality for birth parents when compared to 10 similarly wealthy countries.
Dr. Joia Adele Crear-Perry, MD, FACOG, a nationally recognized thought leader around racism as a root cause of health inequities, kicked off the event by sharing the background of the maternal and infant health crisis and its disproportionate effect on families of color.
“The United States was not built on a human rights framework… You should have the right to education, to housing, to food. Not to be a billionaire. But, for just a basic income – having a living wage,” Dr. Joia framed. “We don’t invest in things like paid leave, child care; the things we know that we desperately need right now, like free health insurance.”
Both systematic racial and gender racism generate chronic stressors for Black women that contribute to higher rates of maternal death. In addition, racial inequities are embedded in our current health care system, making care less accessible and less responsive to Black mothers and children as it should be, regardless of socio-economic status.
Later in the discussion, Start Early President Diana Rauner added how, “the COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated the stressors that exist for Black women and health care providers in under-resourced communities.”
Fortunately, Dr. Joia and Diana shared many solutions for overcoming this avoidable and tragic reality – services, such as doulas and home visiting, and programs that offer universal newborn supports, which are proven to ultimately reach more under-resourced families. In addition, Dr. Joia noted that, “… we [need to] stop racializing things like Medicaid. We all need health care, not just Black people.”
Start Early’s direct-service programs provide critical supports to young parents for building strong relationships with their baby and creating a safe and stimulating home environment. It is programs like these that can ensure all new moms and babies, including Black moms and babies, receive the quality physical and emotional care they need and deserve.