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A Blog by Action for Children

Defending Black Maternal Health: A Call to Action for Everyone


This article was originally published on Action for Children’s LinkedIn on April 13, 2023.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 700 women die each year in the United States due to pregnancy or delivery complications. Alarmingly, four in five of these deaths are preventable.

Four in 5 pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. are preventable (CDC)

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Image Credit: Action for Children

In addition, the infant mortality rate among Black Ohioans is 164% higher than that of white Ohioans — and this troubling disparity is reflected in the national numbers as well.

Study: Infant mortality racial gaps persist in Ohio over last decade (Ohio Capital Journal)

At Action for Children, we firmly believe that empowering and supporting Black mamas is critical to helping children and families thrive. As we celebrate Black Maternal Health Week, live out our mission, and position ourselves for action, it is crucial to examine why we must focus on Black mothers and why the community should rally around this cause.

When we talk about the disparities that people of color often endure, they inevitably include Black mothers and often begin before they even give birth. Many face unique struggles and barriers that result in a disproportionate lack of necessary reproductive healthcare, work support, and lower-quality prenatal and postnatal care. Listening to their needs and understanding their challenges is crucial to offer the necessary support.

The subtle and natural right of quality prenatal care for all mothers is one that we must firmly and constantly assert, especially for Black mothers.

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Image Credit: Action for Children

It is a tireless proclamation that we are positioned to take a stance on any and every day. It is our beckoning call to provide support for those who care for and mother children, whether they have given birth or not. Rallying around mothers also means creating spaces of early support for their babies and young children. Action for Children understands this and strategically offers programs such as Help Me Grow, which promotes community-level advocacy that begins with listening to the needs of the mothers we serve.

Listening to learn helps us appreciate the needs and challenges that Black mamas face, in a way that enables us to help them navigate systems of support. Change requires understanding. This is our first commitment to Black mamas.

Action for Children’s mission to help children thrive is focused on helping the adults who impact young children’s growth and development. Our organization is committed to empowering and supporting these adults – and that means we must speak to both the opportunities and inequities Black mamas and caregivers face. As we listen to learn, we often hear the chorus of their need to live freely, safely, and joyfully in their maternal experience. This translates into the importance of self-care for Black mamas as they strive to overcome unique barriers.

5 Tips for Maternal Self Care (Action for Children)

We continue to encourage Black mamas to share these experiences with the community to bring light to these injustices and to challenge those of us who stand with them to also speak up alongside them. Change requires understanding and understanding requires a platform for those impacted to speak and be heard. This is our second commitment to our Black mamas.

Action for Children also affirms the statement that Black mamas deserve to be liberated, respected, and protected. We know that change requires understanding and understanding requires a platform for those impacted to speak and be heard. But a platform requires advocacy from those committed to speak to the needs and experiences of Black mamas. This is our third commitment to our Black mamas.

Each of us has the power – and the obligation – to advocate for policies and systems of care that invest in Black mamas.

When it comes to policies and systemic approaches of support, we can advocate for increased funding for maternal care, support mandatory and permanent postpartum Medicaid coverage, and rally around increased access to doula services and Medicaid reimbursement for these critical services. In our day-to-day lives, this could mean offering to attend prenatal appointments along with a mother to be a second set of ears and eyes as they explore their options and needs or helping with household chores and child care to give Black mothers an opportunity to rest and practice self-care.

If we want to help children and families thrive, we must nurture, empower, defend, and advocate for Black Mamas.

Everyone has a part to play, and it starts with listening to their needs, amplifying their voices and perspectives, and committing to action. It is only then that we can begin to disassemble structures of inequity and injustice and create a brighter future for all mothers, caregivers, and children.

Author: Areesha Hunter, Home Visiting Program Manager at Action for Children

Action for Children is the local child care resource and referral agency for Central Ohio, and is committed to assuring quality early learning experiences for all children. Our services focus on transforming the lives of children by supporting the everyday heroes who most influence our children’s early growth; care givers, educators, parents, and guardians. Learn More.

Action for Children’s Help Me Grow home visiting services are funded by the Ohio Department of Health. Action for Children is an affiliate of Healthy Families America.

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