Black women’s health is a bleak picture in the United States. The reality is Black women suffer from chronic diseases more so than any other demographic and are more likely to die from breast cancer than a White woman. The list of health concerns for Black women is long and growing. Even pregnancy is a health risk for Black women. Amnesty International reveals it is more dangerous to give birth in the US than in 49 other countries. We are thought to have an advanced health care system and access to modern therapies, yet countries including Kuwait, Bulgaria and South Korea have fewer pregnancy-related deaths. Black women are four times more likely to do die from pregnancy-related complications than White women. This statistic has not improved in over 20 years.
This disparity, in part, is attributed to the lack of access women of color have to health care in general. The same factors that contribute to obesity and the rise of type II diabetes among Black women also contribute to the high risk nature of pregnancies in this group. The Center for Reproductive Rights put out a report, Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in US Healthcare, where it highlighted the particular struggle of Black women in the South. The report highlights that information regarding sex and sexual reproduction was not readily available. Or, even if they had the knowledge, they weren’t permitted the same level of access to care as Whites. In addition, young women (and men) weren’t taught about preventing pregnancy. It was and is a taboo topic, then once a women gets pregnant it’s even more taboo. This issue deserves an in-depth look into the problem and solutions. It needs more attention than I can provide in this post.
It’s astonishing that in the year 2015 that a whole demographic of women are being constructively denied access to quality care when it is probably the most necessary, during the creation of new life. The two biggest things that need to happen to help turn this grave statistic around is first, access to accurate information. With the internet available to most people, access to information is better however, it doesn’t mean the information is accurate. For young people, they need to hear the facts about their bodies and sex at home first and then reinforced in the schools. The education has long struggled with how much information to provide to children beyond the basic biology of humans. But if they aren’t getting the information at home, where else can kids turn to get accurate information. Adult women also need information as well, especially if they are considering starting a family. If they didn’t get this education in their teen years simply because they are now grown doesn’t mean they automatically know this.
The second thing that needs to happen is gender and racial equality in the health care system. Black women are more likely to be living in poverty than White women. For some physicians this is permission to judge them rather than educate and treat them. Unfortunately, having an education, health insurance and a good job also doesn’t guarantee a woman of color quality care. Women need to start asking more questions and pushing back on the system. The system needs to begin paying for performance and not for service. Currently a doctor is reimbursed by how many patients he/she saw in a given period of time not on the outcome of the service. If a physician’s minority population isn’t doing as well as it’s White population, all things being equal, that deserves some investigation.
I’ll spend more time investigating how women of color, especially Black women, can ensure they have a healthy pregnancy. You know what I always say, you can’t change something without first acknowledging it. Take time to read the report and learn why pregnancy may have increased your chances of death. Share this within your communities and keep the conversation going.
REAL TALK | REAL THINGS | REAL RESULTS