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Illustration by Maya Chastain

The current state of maternal health is highly concerning. The United States spends more on healthcare costs than our global counterparts but continues to perpetuate the worst outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx pregnant people.

In 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report that showcased one of the worst maternal mortality rates in U.S. history.

Findings indicate that nearly 33 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births occurred in 2021 — a 40% increase from 2020. Data from maternal mortality review committees shows that 84% of these deaths were preventable.

Furthermore, the increase in maternity care deserts affects approximately 6.9 million pregnant people and roughly 500,000 births. People who live in these counties have limited or no access to:

  • maternity care resources
  • hospitals
  • birth centers
  • obstetric providers

To help ensure that we commit to doing our part, Healthline chose advancing maternal health equity as our 2023 social impact initiative.

We know that now is the time to act. During the year, we’ve:

  • published articles highlighting maternal health champions like Charles Johnson
  • conducted research to determine the top needs of pregnant people and new parents to guide further content development
  • engaged with maternal health experts
  • given back to organizations identified by Healthline team members

To deepen our long-term impact, Healthline awarded $100,000 in grant funding to Ancient Song, a national birth justice organization working to eliminate maternal and infant mortality and morbidity among Black and Latinx people living in low income households. Our grant is an investment in their expansion of postpartum doula training and services and in support of continuing their national advocacy efforts through programming.

Doulas play a crucial role in supporting and equipping pregnant people and new parents with helpful information to:

  • promote and support self-advocacy during their care journey
  • assist with addressing challenges such as access to transportation and food
  • identify linkages to additional care when needed

Pregnant people and new parents are powerful consumers of information and healthcare services. Their positive experiences before, during, and after pregnancy are crucial to the long-term well-being of their families.

Their experiences are also widely accepted indicators of the overall quality of our national healthcare system.

As a Black mother of two young children, I was fortunate to have two healthy and uneventful pregnancies. But my moments of joy and excitement were often followed by feelings of caution and heightened anxiety.

I often thought about what could go wrong during my care – simply because of my race.

Many Black, Indigenous, and Latinx pregnant people may have similar experiences. Because of this, advocating for equity in maternal healthcare is personal and professional.

Every pregnant person and new parent deserves high quality care and respect. Healthcare equity during every step of their journey should be expected and required, regardless of:

  • income
  • race
  • ethnicity
  • education
  • geographic location

Advancing maternal health equity requires us to uproot systemic racism and build inclusive solutions focused on solving the challenges experienced by the most negatively impacted first. Doing so can lead to upstream benefits for all.

Despite the gloomy statistics, innovative progress is in the works. Federal policies are creating avenues of funding and guidelines for health and social protections to address maternal health.

Healthcare systems, dedicated healthcare professionals, private companies, and community-based organizations are leading the way in re-imagining new systems rooted in:

  • collaboration
  • autonomy
  • respectful maternity care

We still have a long way to go. But I have hope that, together, we can build a healthy culture of excellence in patient experience.

The future is in our hands, and the time to create it is now.