Structural Racism in Medicine Worsens
Structural Racism in Medicine Worsens the Health of Black Women and Infants
The United States has one of the most abysmal maternal health records among industrialized nations, and Black women bear a disproportionate share of the burden.
U.S. women are two to three times more likely to die than women in Canada from the start of pregnancy to one year after delivery. The infant mortality rate for Black women’s babies was more than twice that of all races, according to 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared with their white counterparts. In some places, it’s worse: In New York City, from 2006 to 2010, Black women were 12 times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications.
The reasons U.S. Black women have a higher risk of adverse maternal and infant health outcomes vary. Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate among women of all races in the United States, and their position doesn’t change with increased education level or income. Black women experience high levels of chronic stress produced by systematic racial bias and institutionalized racism structures, which have physiological consequences that can lead to higher health risks. Black women also encounter discrimination and bias in clinical and health-care settings from providers, contributing to the disparity in maternal care and fatality rates.