This week marks the fifth annual Black Maternal Health Week, spearheaded by our partners at Black Mamas Matter Alliance. Black Maternal Health Week is a time to call attention to the unacceptable maternal health gap in the U.S., and to consider policy solutions to the systemic inequities that lead to adverse health outcomes for Black birthing people.
In the United States, Black women are three to five times as likely to have a maternal death than white women, reflecting deeply embedded structural racism in the healthcare field, and in our country as a whole. These inequities have been especially clear throughout the COVID pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted working Black women, who are often overrepresented in frontline positions.
Through our work, we have seen firsthand the impact supportive workplace policies can have in allowing Black pregnant workers to protect their health without risking being pushed off the job or losing income, and through our recent joint report with Black Mamas Matter Alliance, we highlighted the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act as a key solution in combating the Black maternal health crisis. In “Centering the Experiences of Black Mamas in the Workplace: How The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Can Support Black Maternal Health,” we chronicle the firsthand experiences of Black birth workers and leading advocates across the country whose stories show the urgent need for these lifeline protections.
As Cherisse Scott, Founder and CEO of SisterReach, shared, “[T]he stress of losing a job or not having a good relationship with your employer due to your pregnancy is a social determinant of health… It’s really sad to see that in 2021– birthing people are an afterthought, and that can have a negative impact on their health and the health of our communities overall.”
This year’s Black Maternal Health Week theme, “Building for Liberation: Centering Black Mamas, Families, and Systems of Care,” serves as a reminder that we must center the voices of Black birthing people as we fight for the structural change they urgently need. As we work towards a future where no Black worker must sacrifice their financial stability or health insurance to maintain a healthy pregnancy and postpartum, we remain committed to uplifting the voices of our partners and the workers we hear from every day.