According to a new study, childbirth is deadlier for Black families than it is for White families — even for Black families with high incomes.
The nearly decade-long study from the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at births in California. The study found that babies born to the richest Black women were still more likely to die than babies born to the poorest White women.
“I don’t think if we in medicine are really focused in on the main issue, which is really racism and implicit bias, that’s going to change,” said Dr. Dawne Collier, an associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Illinois Chicago.
While the racial divide in mortality rate has been documented previously, researchers point to a lack of income data in prior reports. Researchers linked California data of births, hospitalizations, deaths and incomes from 2007-2016 to show the relationship.
One of the big risks Collier said she sees leading mortality rates is complications from high blood pressure and hypertension — leading to preeclampsia, a high blood pressure disorder that can occur during pregnancy.
Collier pointed to racism for the disparity. It can show up in disinvestment in communities, leading to a lack of food access, or where families live and what resources are available to them.
Three hospitals have closed on the South and West sides since 2018. And Mercy Hospital in Bronzeville was narrowly saved from closure in 2021.
One South Sider, Jeanine Valrie Logan, is trying to reverse the trend by opening the Chicago South Side Birth Center. Logan, the founder and lead steward at the center and leader in residence at Chicago Beyond, said the center will offer wraparound services for families — everything from pregnancy and postpartum care to family planning. They’re hoping to open in 2024.
“To change community outcomes, it really is going to take everyone focusing on wellness and not only providing these limited amounts of services,” Logan said.
There can be a mistrust of certain hospitals and providers due to improper care, Logan said. Plus, she said, it’s common that Black patients have never had Black providers to help build that trust.
“I think it means a lot for someone to come in and see someone that looks like them, from their neighborhood,” Logan said.