National Maternal and Infant Health Summit addresses coronavirus’ effect on healthcare’s racial disparities

Washington-DC

Thrive by Five was founded to identify gaps in the District’s systems and communities that cause racial disparities in birth outcomes.

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WASHINGTON (WDVM) — On average, 700 women die in childbirth — or from complications related to childbirth — in the United States every year. The rate of mortality is three to four times higher among Black women compared to white women, according to the American Medical Association.

This week, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and her organization called Thrive by Five, directed by Dr. Faith Gibson Hubbard, is hosting the third annual National Maternal and Infant Health Summit. Thrive by Five was founded to identify gaps in the District’s systems and communities that cause racial disparities in birth outcomes. Its members are also making sure healthcare providers and parents have the resources to mitigate those disparities. 

Dr. Hubbard is a mother of two. “When I look at my children, I’m reminded of the many trials I experienced just to see their little faces,” Hubbard said. “There were times that I didn’t feel listened to, there were times when I felt that what I was feeling didn’t matter, and that I didn’t matter. But there are people who fought for me and because of them I survived. But maternal and infant health has to be about more than just surviving and resilience.”

Tuesday’s first panel discussion was about the coronavirus’ effect on pregnant women and their families. Dr. Aletha Maybank, the chief health equity officer of the American Medical Association, says COVID-19 has exacerbated racial disparities in healthcare. The U.S. has one of the worst childbirth mortality rates of the world’s industrialized countries. Maybank says Black newborn babies are three times more likely to die in the care of white doctors. Institutionalized racism influenced people of color’s housing options, job opportunities, and healthcare. It also influenced healthcare providers’ biases; Dr. Maybank says Black patients are mistakenly believed to have higher pain tolerance because of their “thicker skin” or “different nerve endings” — both disproven. 

While it’s unfortunate that the conference had to be hosted online, Hubbard says it’s also advantageous — about 6,000 people are signed up to tune in to this week’s panel discussions, which include doctors, mothers, practitioners, and lawmakers from around the country.

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