Reports

Eliminating Racial Disparities in Maternal and Infant Mortality

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Author(s): The Center for American Progress

Published: May 2, 2019

Report Intro/Brief:
“If the fact that the United States has the highest maternal and infant mortality rates among comparable developed countries is not bad enough, the survival rates for African American mothers and their infants are even more dismal. African American women across the income spectrum and from all walks of life are dying from preventable pregnancy-related complications at three to four times the rate of non-Hispanic white women, while the death rate for black infants is twice that of infants born to non-Hispanic white mothers…

This report provides a comprehensive policy framework to eliminate racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality. Too often, policy conversations about maternal and infant health take place separately despite the interdependence of pregnancy and birth outcomes. This report attempts to bridge that gap by considering solutions that address racial disparities in both maternal and infant mortality. The authors outline policy strategies in five areas and make the following recommendations to address the ongoing threat to African American mothers and their infants:

  • Improve access to critical services:
    • Strengthen existing health programs and support reproductive health care.
    • Screen and treat women at risk for preterm birth.
    • Eliminate maternity care deserts.
    • Offer African American women tools to navigate the health care system.
  • Improve the quality of care provided to pregnant women:
    • Train providers to address racism and build a more diverse health care workforce.
    • Create standardized assessments for mothers and infants.
    • Adopt new models of care and link payment to quality.
  • Address maternal and infant mental health:
    • Identify barriers to accessing maternal mental health services.
    • Dismantle care barriers with a comprehensive approach.
    • Screen for and address infant and early childhood mental health issues.
  • Enhance supports for families before and after birth:
    • Invest in and expand access to policies and programs that support families’ basic needs.
    • Invest in community programs that offer one-stop comprehensive services.
    • Simplify enrollment across public benefit programs.
    • Invest in home visiting.
    • Fund community-based education and communications initiatives to support families.
  • Improve data collection and oversight:
    • Standardize birth and death certificate data.
    • Mandate and fund fetal and infant mortality review committees.
    • Ensure equity in the review process.”

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