HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — There is a national crisis in the U.S. and it’s become Connecticut’s Code Blue. Statistics show women of color are dying needlessly in the hands of health care providers, and it’s a trend that’s no stranger to Connecticut.
Recent data shows two Black women every day will die from childbirth complications in the U.S. The number totals more than 700 Black women every year. The Centers for Disease Control says that 60% of these deaths are classified as preventable.
According to the Connecticut Health Foundation, Connecticut is regarded as one of the nation’s healthiest states, yet a closer look at the data shows huge health disparities between women of color and their white counterparts.
The Connecticut-based nonprofit organization found that babies born to Black mothers in Connecticut are more than four times as likely to die before their first birthday than babies born to white mothers. The issue in this crisis is two-fold and women of color and their newborn babies are disproportionately impacted.
For health disparities expert Dr. Patti Rose, the issue is systemic.
“Black women are three to four times more likely to die in terms of maternal mortality than white women,” said Dr. Rose.
Dr. Rose said the health disparities can be boiled down to one thing: racial bias in the health care system.
Dr. Cato Laurencin from UConn Health said the issue is structural, but there are solutions for this crisis in the state.
“We see the same trends in Connecticut that are across the country,” said Dr. Laurencin.
Education is key.
“We need to educate our non-Black physicians on these issues and how their own biases, conscious, and unconscious can come into play in terms of how patients are being treated. We need to discuss it and we need to call it out and make it clear when it happens,” said Dr. Laurencin.
With tragic stories continuing nationwide, Dr. Laurencin said the growing calls for more diverse faces in health care are justified.
“First, we know that in the Black community, Black doctors take care of more Black patients, and so having more Black doctors provides more care for Black patients,” said Dr. Laurencin.
“The national data shows us that the outcomes are better when people of color have providers of color and again, I think it is a natural and inherent way that care is approached when someone sees themselves in the person they are caring for,” Connecticut Health Foundation CEP, Tiffany Donelson.
While not every doctor will be of color, the demands for equal care for all in Connecticut and across the U.S. continue so devastating outcomes won’t come from the norm.
It’s why Connecticut launched the Gold Ribbon Commission around Child and Maternal Health. The mission is to support the growing push for legislation that will look at racism as a public health crisis. If it moves forward, one of the goals would be to get the financial resources to address the disparities in the hospital setting.
“Racism goes back a long way; it’s very deep. So how do we address this? We address it with the providers that are providing care to Black women. We can address this through cultural competency and cultural proficiency training to address some of their biases that they may not recognize,” said Dr. Rose.
Experts said addressing the biases within the system is a real way to begin change that can save lives and close the racial gap in the maternal mortality crisis.
“If we do them well, we can have a Connecticut where a baby does not have to die just because they are Black or brown or their mother does not have to die because she is Black or brown,” said Donelson.
One major takeaway here is for women of color is to advocate for themselves. Have the tough conversations with your healthcare providers as an expectant mother. Ask them what they’re doing to ensure you don’t fall through the cracks and that they are prioritizing your health and that of your family’s, too.
On the state level, Dr. Cato Laurencin from UConn Health is overseeing the re-launch of a state Black Doctor Society that has gained the support of every single hospital system in the state of Connecticut.
As for Charles Johnson, whose wife, Kira, tragically died after bleeding out internally following a Cesarean at Cedar-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, has become a national voice and an advocate in the fight against maternal mortality in the U.S.
4Kira4Moms is a non-profit organization founded with a mission for improved maternal health policies and regulations. The non-profit was created in honor of Kira.
4Kira4Moms is calling on Congress to pass H.R. 1318. It’s legislation that will support states in their work to save and sustain the wellbeing of mothers during their pregnancy process in order to eliminate the disparities in the national outcomes.
For more information on this organization, visit https://4kira4moms.com/