This week, organizations, advocates and policymakers across the nation celebrate the fifth annual Black Maternal Health Week and are furthering conversations about Black maternal health in the U.S. Last week, the White House issued a proclamation to officially recognize Black Maternal Health Week. Similarly, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion declaring April 11-17 Black Maternal Health Week, and Friday, April 16 the Day of the Black Infant.
In Los Angeles County, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths is four times higher for Black women compared to White women. The rate of babies born prematurely is also 50 percent higher among Black women than for White or Asian women. Research shows that these gaps persist, regardless of income, education or health status. The disproportionately high rates of adverse outcomes point to systemic racism, toxic stress and bias in medical care.
To address these inequities, Black women advocates and community leaders in Los Angeles, and across the country, are driving systems change on the ground. One such initiative, Cherished Futures for Black Moms & Babies, leads a collaborative of hospitals, public health, health plans and community members to improve care delivery and experiences by centering Black mothers and birthing people.
The leaders of Cherished Futures say that Black women in the community already have the answers to address the intergenerational issue of systemic racism that effect birth outcomes.
Cherished Futures convenes Sister Circles—safe forums for Black women and birthing people to share their personal experiences about pregnancy and birth—to identify pathways to advance birth justice throughout Los Angeles County. Since 2020, Cherished Futures has hosted a series of Sister Circles in partnership with the California Black Women’s Health Project and the Los Angeles County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) Prevention Initiative, collectively bringing together over 60 Black women across Los Angeles to discuss opportunities to improve health care delivery, particularly for Black people.
In an October 2021 Sister Circle, one Black mother shared, “We need the hospital systems to acknowledge that Black women have a unique experience in birthing that requires a unique intervention that centers culturally matched care.”
Recommendations derived from Sister Circles are shared with hospital teams, who have been receptive and welcoming of community feedback.
Cherished Futures is a joint initiative of Communities Lifting Communities, the Public Health Alliance of Southern California, and the Hospital Association of Southern California. The initiative is funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, First 5 LA, the California Health Care Foundation, Ballmer Group, Health Net, and Centene Foundation for Quality Healthcare.
To learn more about Cherished Futures, please visit www.cherishedfutures.org