Black maternal death rates have been steadily rising in the United States for decades, Black women in Miami-Dade County today are three times more likely to die from childbirth and related complications than White women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that four out of five of these deaths are preventable. The history of structural and institutional racism which has resulted in inadequate access to care, maternity care deserts, lack of health insurance, and implicit bias, are at the root of the Black maternal health crisis.

Think about that. Why is the disparity so great? And why do we allow it to continue when we have a blueprint for better perinatal outcomes? It is physiologic birth and midwifery, which is the standard of care in every single country that is doing well in the areas of maternal and infant health. Also, most of those countries have some version of universal healthcare to address the needs of uninsured pregnant people and a robust infrastructure to support care coordination and integration including postpartum care and family leave. The alarming statistics on Black death rates in the United States call for urgent action to address the health equity crisis that is pervasive throughout our nation.

As we observe Black Maternal Health Week from April 11-17, we have a unique opportunity to work together and create a better reality going forward. First, we will support efforts to make quality care more accessible to women of color. By identifying
maternal health deserts in which not enough OB/GYN doctors and midwives are present, the Health Foundation of South Florida’s support is establishing clinics and mobile units that bring care to places where there aren’t any today.

Second, we will tackle the challenges stemming from historical inequalities, particularly concerning maternal care for Black women. Our collective endeavor is to advocate for funding that prioritizes a human-centered approach, ensuring that care aligns with Black women’s genuine needs and preferences.

Third, we must champion the role of doulas, who are trained professionals providing support before, during, and after childbirth. Expectant mothers matched with a doula have better birth outcomes, are less likely to have a low-birth weight baby or to experience a birth complication, and are significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding. Finally, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reported that the continuous presence of a doula during pregnancy is one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes, which is why doula care is a key aspect of our collaborative’s efforts.

Informed by the region’s first Black Health Summit, the Health Foundation recently invested $1.8 million to fund Black maternal health initiatives. Nearly $1 million of this commitment is allocated to our collaborative comprised of Jackson Health System, Southern Birth Justice Network, Metro Mommy Agency, Magnolia Birth House, and YWCA South Florida to build the infrastructure needed to incorporate community-based doulas into the prenatal, birthing and postpartum process.

We know that improving the standard of care for Black women during their childbearing years requires systems-level change. This is possible through collaboratives with community-based organizations, healthcare systems and government agencies. We have seen the collaborative model change mindsets, improve reimbursement models, and elevate care outcomes.

This year, we will all gather again at the third annual Black Health Summit on June 4, 2024. As the marquee event for the Health Foundation, we welcome everyone who is passionate about changing health disparities. Please join us. Together we can create a future in which all South Floridians have an equal opportunity to achieve optimal health and well-being.

Loreen Chant
CEO, Health Foundation of South Florida

Jamarah Amani
Executive Director, Southern Birth Justice Network; licensed midwife

Esther Rose McCant
CEO, Metro Mommy Agency; certified doula and lactation counselor

Kerry-Ann Royes

Joanne Ruggiero
Senior VP & CEO, Holtz Children’s Hospital & the Women’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial

Tamara Taitt
Co-Founder of Magnolia Birth House; licensed midwife and marriage and family therapist

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