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Earlier this week, the Biden administration put our a proclamation making April 11 through April 17, 2021 a Black Maternal Health Week. While this is a notable move by the administration, they are not one to have established this week as Black Maternal Health Week. Four years ago, the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) started Black Maternal Health Week as part of National Minority Health Month, which is the month of April in the United States. They also chose this week to align with the United Nation’s International Day for Maternal Health and Rights, which is April 11th. BMMA’s aim for Black Maternal Health Week is to:
- Deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health in the US;
- Amplify community-driven policy, research, and care solutions;
- Center the voices of Black Mamas, women, families, and stakeholders;
- Provide a national platform for Black-led entities and efforts on maternal health, birth and reproductive justice; and
- Enhance community organizing on Black maternal health.
The need for a Black Maternal Health Week reflects the growing recognition of deep disparities in maternal outcomes for Black women in the United States. The Biden administration’s proclamation notes: “America’s maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the developed world, and they are especially high among Black mothers, who die from complications related to pregnancy at roughly two to three times the rate of white, Hispanic, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women — regardless of their income or education levels.”
On April 13th, Vice President Kamala Harris’ held a roundtable on the issue of Black maternal health. She urges us to listen to Black women who, she noted, are often ignored. “I’ve heard many stories,” she stated, “stories of women who were experiencing postpartum depression, only to be dismissed. Stories of women telling their doctors they were experiencing pain, only to be ignored.”
Here are Exploring Health, we have explored this issue through a previous blog post by News Team member Adaora Ntukogu and through an event in October 2020 on “Race and Reproductive Justice”, which brought together community activists Monica Simpson (Sister Song) and Dázon Dixon Diallo (SisterLove) and health professional Rebecca Shasanmi Ellis. We are hopeful that with the additional attention to this critical health disparity from the Biden administration will produce the changes needed to keep Black mothers healthy through pregnancy, child birth, and the postpartum experience.