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Advocating for equity during
Black Maternal Health Week and beyond

To recognize Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17), the Biden administration offered the first-ever White House proclamation honoring the week and announcing specific steps to address disparities. Dr. Jamila Taylor, director of health care reform at The Century Foundation, a WKKF grantee, shared her response: “This year’s Black Maternal Health Week resolution is expansive and game-changing—a manifesto outlining the multiple and intersecting factors that impact the ability of Black women to birth safely and to do so with dignity and respect. Black Maternal Health Week is a time to pause and not only acknowledge the plight of Black mothers and birthing people, but also to reflect on meaningful solutions and hold space for Black women leaders who are charting the course for the way forward.”

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a proclamation for Black Maternal Health Week. Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association, a Detroit-based WKKF grantee, hosted an Instagram Live event featuring Detroit midwife Cynthia Jackson of Sacred Rose Midwifery, who discussed Black birth, midwifery, doulas and breastfeeding. Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association works to build leadership and advocacy among leaders of color to support the expansion of culturally appropriate birth and breastfeeding practices.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that Black women are twice as likely to suffer both early pregnancy loss and stillbirths compared to White women. Tune in to Gabrielle Horton, host of NATAL—a WKKF-funded podcast docuseries devoted to telling stories about having a baby while Black—as she and others discuss pregnancy loss and the importance of community health workers supporting all mothers. 

Local and national lactation consultants recently highlighted the benefits of breastfeeding and addressing racial health disparities as part of the I am New Orleans community-led conversation series. Noting that not all communities have a generational history of breastfeeding, Jade George, a lactation counselor and doula at WKKF grantee Nola Baby Café, said about breastfeeding her son, “That was my first rebellion. And it shouldn’t be a rebellion. It should be my choice. But in my community, it was a rebellion. Struggling to feed your baby is the most unimaginable fear.”

As we reflect on Black Maternal Health Week, we’d like to acknowledge a local leader in New Mexico committed to prioritizing Black maternal health to achieve equity in women’s health care services and policy. Sunshine Muse, executive director of Black Health New Mexico, is a strong advocate for Black mothers and children in the state—addressing systemic inequities that disproportionately impact Black communities and providing vital solutions.

While it’s no secret the pandemic continues to impact communities of color at a much higher rate than others, a report by the Power Coalition and Hope Policy Institute found inequity in how COVID-19 relief dollars have been distributed as well. Communities with a majority of rural or low-income residents, or people of color, received far less funding than their wealthier counterparts. This story highlights the report and details the disparity.

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