GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — During Black Maternal Health Week, officials spread awareness and take action to educate people on the disparities Black women face during and after pregnancy.
According to the CDC, Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. It also says multiple factors contribute to these disparities such as quality healthcare, underlying chronic conditions, racism and implicit bias.
The NC Department of Health & Human Services is implementing ways through various programs to address maternal morbidity and maternal mortality amongst Black women. Officials with ECU Health say they connect with patients to learn their needs and wants.
“We do see that in the western part of North Carolina, those numbers are greater and when we look at the western part of North Carolina, that region has been impacted by hospital closures,” said Tara Shuler, the Maternal Health Branch head with the NCDHHS. “That region has been impacted by access to care. so women there have to drive further to access, let’s say high-risk maternity care.”
Officials with the NCDHHS say they have a network called the State Provider Support Network, which is a team made of an obstetrician, family medicine doctor, a pediatrician and a nurse.
This team looks at how to improve black maternal health and prevent maternal deaths.
“When we look at maternal deaths, the data shows us that most maternal deaths occur within the first 42 days after birth, so what we wanna do is ensure that women know how to transition their care and then have up to a year to be followed by a primary care provider and to ensure their children too are followed up by pediatricians,” Shulder said.
Courtney Strickland, a clinical assistant professor in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at ECU Health believes diversity can help some of the health disparities black women face when it comes to maternal health.
“I do think that it’s easier when you have a staff of various backgrounds and races and genders and opinions and thoughts, you’re able to catch those reasons that maybe this person thinks or acts differently than me but they might act similar to one of your staff members,” Strickland said.
Strickland adds that the medical field can use improvements in how to connect with patients and figure out their needs and wants.
“Listen. Just take the time and listen. Try to understand your patient, their backgrounds, their challenges. What challenges they might’ve had coming into the appointment that day,” Strickland said.