Maternal mortality is steadily increasing. Is your philanthropy keeping up?
Every year, 700-900 women die of pregnancy related causes in the U.S., one of the worst maternal mortality rates among developed countries.
A closer look shows racial disparities carry the statistic: Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy related causes than non-Hispanic white women regardless of education and socioeconomic status.
Despite these alarming statistics, philanthropic funding for maternal health has not kept pace with the number of pregnancy related deaths among Black women.
Funders can and should be doing more.
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s latest data, maternal mortality steadily increased between 2011 and 2014 with significant racial disparities: 40 deaths per 100,000 births for Black women compared to 12 per 100,000 births for white women.
In the same period, maternal health funding decreased nearly 32% from $87 million to $58 million.
The rate of maternal mortality and racial disparities point to complex intersections of social determinants and structural inequities that undermine Black maternal health.
However, in 2011 funders designated only $2.5 million specifically to Black maternal health, and that was gutted by more than 50% in 2014.
The maternal mortality crisis is rooted in the marginalization of Black women.
Decreased funding for Black maternal health indicates a gap in grantmaking strategies and the root causes of pregnancy related deaths in the U.S.
Health outcomes are largely tied to social determinants including health and systems services, location, employment, education, race and income.
Maternal health care operates within systems that inherently undervalue Black lives. For most Black women, that means being exposed to multiple forms of discrimination and institutional barriers to quality care, which leads to wide racial disparities.
Black women are more likely to:
Curbing maternal mortality requires investment specifically in Black maternal health care and solutions that engage inequities undermining health outcomes for Black mothers and their babies.
Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, founder and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, an NCRP nonprofit member said: “What happens when you mention the medical issues and you don’t talk about the social structure, you pick strategies that are not going to allow for ending any kind of inequity.”
Funders can break the mold and save lives.
Black women need systemic change that begins at the community level: access to vital community health centers, paid family leave, patient-centered care and access to health coverage.
Funders can help by:
Maternal mortality in the U.S. reflects a grave injustice to Black women and a deeply flawed health care system. Their voices must be amplified in the fight for health equity.
Nichia McFarlane is NCRP’s events intern. Follow @NCRP on Twitter.