To save the lives of Black mothers, the Biden administration is renewing its commitment to address the crisis of Black maternal mortality and morbidity across the country.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW), April 11-17. Founded and led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, BMHW is a week of awareness, activism, and community building intended to deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health in the United States and more.
In a proclamation of Black Maternal Health Week, the White House released a statement detailing its plans and actions toward rooting out systemic racism and “building a healthcare system that is equitable and safe for Black families.”
According to Carole Johnson, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Biden-Harris administration strives to eliminate racial disparities in maternal healthcare. Meanwhile, her agency plans to provide better options that cater to women and children in underserved and under-resourced communities.
The CDC found that Black women are more than three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, regardless of their income or education.
Improving Healthcare Options For Mothers
The administration has provided 12 months of extended postpartum coverage through Medicaid for mothers.
“One of the key things we’ve identified is that Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) pay for about 40% of births in the country. The health needs of women don’t end 60 days post-pregnancy. We need to make sure that women continue to get that care and service,” Johnson told The Root.
While a mother undergoes physical changes, Johnson explains that the administration is also prioritizing her mental health through the Maternal Depression Access Program, which trains health providers on identifying the early symptoms and how to best help treat maternal depression.
“We have a teleconsult line that allows OBs to get direct help from a mental health professional. That will help them identify how to best support their patients,” she said.
Investing In Community-Based Doulas
Studies have found that doula support leads to better labor and birthing experiences and better birth outcomes.
According to The Root, a $5 million investment has been secured in continuing the American Rescue Plan‘s mission to provide access to community-based doulas and expand the current program.
“We have another investment of 20 million dollars to grow the doula workforce. There is also another 25 million-dollar investment in the nursing workforce focused on certified nurse midwives,” Johnson said.
She added: “We recognize that you can’t expect people to succeed both economically and in their health outcomes if you don’t provide the necessary support. When we have the right support for women and children, we get better economic development and outcomes as well. Everyone should be vested in that.”