Black Maternal Health Week event in Huntsville aims to bring awareness to maternal health crisis

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - April 11th through April 17th is Black Maternal Health Week during National Minority Health Month. The week-long national campaign is now in its second year.

Local organizations like Mocha Milk Mamas and Baobab Birth Collective have been hosting North Alabama community events in collaboration with the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.

Through these programs, they aim to raise awareness to address the urgent challenges black women face before, during and after pregnancy. 'Black Maternal Health: It’s a Community Issue,' will be held Wednesday, April 17th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Huntsville Madison County Public Library

New and expectant families are invited to learn more about the Alabama and national maternal health crisis, especially as it relates to black birthing persons. Black doulas, non-medical professionals trained to give physical and emotional support in childbirth, and lactation professionals will be in the session to share information about local resources and the work being done to combat this health crisis.

Mortality Rate

Black Maternal Health Week was created in response to CDC data that showed black mothers are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white mothers.

Maternal mortality overall is an issue in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, the United States and Serbia are the only developed nations whose maternal mortality rates have increased between 1990 and 2015. They put the US mortality rate at 14 per 100,000 live births.

The Cause

BMMA says research shows factors like poverty, lack of access to health care, social inequality, and exposure to racism may contribute to the elevated number of black maternal deaths.

"There's nothing about my black body that makes me more likely to be more ill. It's the care that I receive that puts me at additional risk. No mother should have to consider, 'can I afford to be healthy during my pregnancy?'" stated certified doula, Danica Davis, founder of Baobab Birth Collective.

Both Davis and certified doula Tawana Townsend of DouLaSoul will be at Wednesday's event to give information and demonstrate some of their work.

What's being done?

The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act was passed in December 2018 to give states funding for data accountability and the establishment of Maternal Mortality Review Committees. $12 million a year for five years will go to make sure states have review committees to explore maternal deaths.

Senator Kamala Harris (D) of California, introduced the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act, aimed at reducing racial disparities in maternal mortality. The bill calls for implicit bias training of health care personnel working at various levels in the health care system.

The latest numbers from the March of Dimes gave Alabama an F in premature births. Their research shows the preterm birth rate in the state is 51-percent higher for black women than other women.

"We're able to see through the lens of infant mortality that there's a crisis. Imagine what we could do with a better lens toward maternal health. We take care of moms, we take better care of moms -- we'll have healthier babies," said Davis.

This month, congressional members launched a Black Maternal Health Caucus, and a team of senators has introduced a resolution to federally designate April 11 to 17 as Black Maternal Health Week.

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