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Racial disparities highlighted in March of Dimes maternal and infant health report

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 5:11 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - From grueling pain to unimaginable joy; going into labor is many things, but in the United States, it can also be dangerous for mother and child.

Newly compiled data from March of Dimes shows more than 700 women in the U.S. die each year during childbirth and more than 10%a of infants are born prematurely.

“We are still seeing unacceptably high preterm birth rates in the U.S. especially among women of color,” said March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart.

Yearly, the March of Dimes grades each state on preterm birth rates by looking at state policy, race and ethnicity statistics, and infant mortality. The organization released the 2021 report card Monday.

The report found a slight overall decline in 2020 preterm births, yet the rates increased for Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women.

The U.S. as a whole received a “C-” grade. State by state data can be found here.

“Today, in this country a Black or indigenous woman is 60% more likely to give birth prematurely, and that just simply is unacceptable,” said Stewart.

Health experts agree the crisis doesn’t have one root cause or single solution, but they say research, education, and comprehensive policy change could help to move the needle.

Madeline Shepherd with the Center for American Progress points to the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, which in part, would create 12-month postpartum Medicaid coverage, as well as increased support for telehealth and maternal mental health.

But, Shepherd notes funding alone cannot create systemic change.

“When addressing an issue, a systemic issue like racism, we can’t leave any stone unturned in terms of looking for ways to improve and areas to deliver better care and better policy,” said Shepherd.

The bill has been introduced in the U.S House of Representatives. It has 163 cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats.

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