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April 18, 2024 6:50 am

Local News

Addressing Racial Disparities in Maternal Mortality Outcomes in Pennsylvania

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Armand Jackson

Tragic events like maternal mortality cause emotional pain for many families every year. It is even more disheartening that there are racial disparities for maternal mortality rates in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. According to the 2021 Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review, the state’s pregnancy-associated mortality rate in 2018 for African American women was 163 per 100,000 live births, with the rate for non-Hispanic white women at 79 deaths per 100,000, and the rate for Hispanic women at 70. A report from theKaiser Family Foundation states that various socio-economic factors brought by the historical and ongoing institutional racism within the United States have contributed to this disparity, which shapes how an individual is treated in medical facilities along with their health outcomes. 

African American women often face barriers to access health insurance and often do not have the necessary coverage needed to efficiently support healthy pregnancies as well as support positive maternal and infant outcomes during and after birth. There is also the notable issue of many African American women reporting that they are often mistreated by employees of the health care system who reportedly do not listen to the women or take them seriously when they are feeling certain pains that are indicative of health issues.

There are groups in Pennsylvania who intend to address these disparities with their own initiatives. Independence Blue Cross, a health insurance company based in Philadelphia, in partnership with AmeriHealth Caritas and Project HOME created the Keystone Connection to Wellness initiative, a program which claims to provide a more personalized approach to care for expectant parents by having eight to ten people due around the same time connect and bond together with their shared experiences. They also offer other programs for pregnant women who are insured by them.

There is also Montco Mamas, an initiative collaboration between the Montgomery County Maternal and Early Childhood Consortium and Maternity Care Coalition with the aim of improving the health and well-being of Montgomery County-based Black pregnant women and their families. Pennsylvania, through the American Rescue Plan Act, extended the postpartum coverage period of Medicaid for pregnant mothers from 60 days after birth to one year. 

There are also entities like Black Mamas Matter Alliance and Women’s Law Project who advocate for policy changes to address these disparities within Pennsylvania and beyond. They have previously highlighted the actions of State General Assembly Representative Morgan Cephas who advocated for the expansion of Medicaid coverage for postpartum care and introduced legislations that included initiatives to collect data on maternal morbidity, provide more access to doula care, and address implicit bias in health care.