In 2019, I became a mom. Fortunately, both my pregnancy and daughter’s birth were healthy and uneventful. But, as a Black woman, I spent all nine months fearful that I would become a statistic.
Every year, 700 women and birthing people needlessly die from pregnancy, childbirth or in the first year postpartum. Within that troubling statistic, disparities in ethnic and racial outcomes abound: American Indian/Alaska Native and Black women are two to three times more likely to die than white women.
The reasons for the racial discrepancies in maternal mortality are steeped in health inequities and exist despite income and education level. United Way believes everyone in every community should have the opportunity to thrive, meaning they have what they need for a good education, healthy life, and family-sustaining income.
That’s why United Way Worldwide, in collaboration with the Deloitte Health Equity Institute, has created the “Doorways to Health for Mothers of Color” program, which aims to improve pregnancy outcomes by activating local United Ways to implement evidence-based strategies in collaboration with black women, healthcare professionals, and other community collaborators.
During the two-year partnership, United Way of Greater Atlanta and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas will work with community-based organizations to implement strategies improving health equity for Black mothers and their families. United Way for Greater Austin and United Way of Dane County (in Madison, WI) will also support the efforts, drawing from their expertise in this area. Along with sharing insights, promising strategies and practices will be scaled to other communities at the project’s end.
Centering the voices of Black women is a cornerstone of Doorways to Health and is threaded throughout all the interventions. For example, the United Way of Dane County is working on a collective impact effort called Connect RX Wisconsin. Through this partnership, they have developed a care coordination system that screens black women for social needs and then connects them to culturally competent care. This effort was created, in part, with the help of local black women who participated in community conversations and identified resources that would be most beneficial to them during pregnancy.
Pregnancy and beyond should be a joyful time for all mothers and birthing people. During Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17), let’s take a moment to recognize racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy outcomes and commit to addressing this unjust crisis.
To find out how to get involved in supporting United Way’s health equity work, contact your local United Way. United Way is in 95 percent of U.S. communities; find your local United Way here.