Posted by on April 13, 2018 - 3:09pm

By Alexa Karczmar

Maternal health in the U.S. has been on the decline for the past forty years. The Department of Health and Human Services has reported that maternal mortality has been on the rise for the last three years, and in the 2014 Trends in Maternal Mortality report, the American maternal mortality rate (MMR) had more than doubled in the preceding 13 years [1].The same report demonstrated that the MMR of the U.S. had the highest level of annual increase in maternal death in all of the countries they had studied.

This crisis disproportionately affects Black women, who are more than four times more likely to die in childbirth than White women [2]. Black women face higher rates of poverty than White women and are less likely to be insured [3]. They have higher rates of chronic health conditions that are considered risk factors in maternal death, including heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes [4]. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cited chronic health conditions as a major risk factor for maternal mortality and suspect in its rates of increase, and the impact of these diseases on Black women are likely exacerbated by their underrepresentation in clinical trials.

Per the Black Mamas Matter Toolkit, Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) is a week intended to:

  • Increase attention to the state of Black maternal health in the US;
  • Amplify the voices of Black mamas, women, families, and stakeholders;
  • Serve as a national platform for Black-women led entities and efforts on maternal; health, birth justice, and reproductive justice; and
  • Enhance community organizing on Black maternal health.

This month, our blog posts and newsletters will further highlight maternal health, sex-inclusive research, and potential solutions in healthcare policy and practice.

You can learn more about BMHW and the Black Mamas Matter Alliance by following them on Twitter @BlkMamasMatter and visiting their website at blackmamamasmatter.org.

References:

1.         Unicef, Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2013. 2014.

2.         Creanga, A.A., et al., Maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States: where are we now? Journal of Women's Health, 2014. 23(1): p. 3-9.

3.         Stephens, J., S. Artiga, and J. Paradise, Health coverage and care in the south in 2014 and beyond. 2014: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

4.         Robbins, C., et al., Disparities in Preconception Health Indicators - Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2013-2015, and Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, 2013-2014. MMWR Surveill Summ, 2018. 67(1): p. 1-16.

 

Posted by on November 18, 2009 - 4:01pm

The Institute for Women's Health Research held its monthly forum on Tuesday with speaker Dr. Celeste Watkins-Hayes giving her talk entitled, "'Dying from' to 'living with' HIV/AIDS: Framing Institutions and the coping process of infected black women."

Dr. Watkins-Hayes began her talk by highlighting the huge discrepancies in HIV/AIDS occurrence by race: through 2007, 60% of women with HIV/AIDS were black or African-American identified. The statistics are even more striking in the local Chicago area: blacks in Chicago account for 55% of HIV/AIDS incidence, while only being 36% of the entire population. Similarly shocking, black women in Chicago account for 76% of all HIV/AIDS occurrences in the city.

The remainder of the talk discussed the results of the Sister to Sister study that Dr. Watkins-Hayes performed in Chicago. The study worked with 25 women with HIV/AIDS through two in-depth interviews and one other observation session where the woman's health status was known and salient. The participants had an average age of 36, all had children, and the majority had low income (<15K/year).

The crux of Dr. Watkins-Hayes' argument is that many individuals can serve as "framing institutions" for a woman diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, these are the people or communities that give the initial information about health status, give a framework for how to understand the social meaning of the illness, give women a language to discuss their diagnoses, and offer resources for dealing with the implications of their disease.  Often, these institutions are the doctors and nurses that give the initial HIV or AIDS status, but they can also be as diverse as drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation centers that are targeting very different problems than an HIV/AIDS, or pastors and private therapists. These people, rather than friends or family, seem to be responsible for shaping how women really look at the disease and begin to accept it. If these framing institutions are not supportive or shaming about the health diagnoses, women are less likely to begin to transition to "living with" their disease. While middle and upper class women are more likely to have access to private framing institutions, lower income women are at significant risk, due to lack of time, money, or acess, of not finding strong, positive framing institutions.

I urge you all to check out Dr. Watkins-Hayes biography page; on it you will find a link to the website she helps organize, links to some of her excellent publications, and descriptions of her current projects. One of her major upcoming projects is a large scale study of the social implications of HIV/AIDS for African-American women. If you'd like to hear more about the study, or discuss being a participant, please contact one of the students working with Dr. Hayes Watkins on the project, Amanda Armour at ara@u.northwestern.edu or 312-320-1223.