Capital and Main recently released a three-part series on birth equity in LA County. Our AAIMM Initiative is highlighted along with many of our partners and partner efforts, called “Black Infant Mortality: the Deadly Divide”.
Truly, there is much work to be done to turn back the tide of harm that over 400 years of oppression and racism in all forms against Black people has caused. Yet, we are encouraged by the our amazing village and the progress we have made bringing forth an unashamed, courageous and unapologetic centering of health and joy for Black mamas, birthing people, and families.
Please see below:
Visit the links below to read each article:
“High infant mortality, or high preterm birth, is a continuum over a 400-year period,” says Wenonah Valentine, founder and executive director of iDREAM for Racial Health Equity, a leadership, training and advocacy network.
For Black mothers, the stress of pregnancy and childbirth is exacerbated by racial biases baked into the health care system. Studies have found that physicians are significantly more likely to underestimate pain in Black patients compared to other racial groups. In L.A. County, Black mothers have been warning for years about the treatment they receive in hospitals and clinics. The husband of a Black woman who bled to death hours after childbirth in 2016 recently sued Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A., alleging she died because of inadequate care fostered by a culture of racism at the hospital.
The suit was subsequently settled out of court. A Cedars-Sinai spokesperson wrote in an email that they were unable to provide any details of that settlement, but added that “while disparities exist throughout our society, we are actively working to advance equity in healthcare. We commend [plaintiff] Mr. Johnson for the attention he has brought to the important issue of racial disparities in maternal outcomes.” Read more.
Janette Robinson Flint is executive director of Black Women for Wellness, a South L.A. based nonprofit. Her work includes educating families about the potential health risks of using certain beauty and cleaning products. And she’s frustrated.
“It’s understudied — absolutely understudied,” Robinson Flint says, of the relationship between chemicals found in commonly used beauty and cleaning products and any effect they may have on pregnant women and their babies. But what is clear, she says, is that communities of color “are overexposed and underprotected.”
Irrespective of socioeconomic status, women of color are disproportionately exposed to more toxic chemicals than white women, and to more endocrine disruptors in particular. These are chemicals that can alter the body’s hormone response networks. Shanna Swan, a noted expert in endocrine toxicology, has found a link between endocrine disrupting phthalates and Bisphenol A — chemicals found in common items like plastic food packaging — and declining fertility rates. Black women in America suffer higher rates of endocrine-related health issues like diabetes, fibroids and certain cancers.
“Exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals changes the probability of having a healthy and successful pregnancy and birth,” says Robin Dodson, associate director of research operations with the Silent Spring Institute, an independent scientific research organization.
To get a better understanding of the problem, Black Women for Wellness and Silent Spring teamed up with a number of local organizations on a recent study looking at the use of personal consumer products among a racially and ethnically diverse array of women in California. Read more.
In Los Angeles County, where Black infants are three times more likely to die within their first year of life than white infants, universal basic income could be a way to address a thus far intractable problem. In 2018, the county began the African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) initiative, which has the five-year goal of reducing the gap between Black and white infant mortality in Los Angeles County by 30% by 2023.
Through programs like the community supported village campaign and a home visitation network, the AAIMM initiative has come to be seen by many mothers, community advocates and stakeholders as essential to redefining the Black birthing experience in L.A. County.
“We give them the support they need, and say, ‘You’re not alone,’” says Marquita Jones, community outreach liaison for the Children’s Collective’s Black Infant Health Program, a South L.A.-based nonprofit.
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