By Dora Muhammad, Health Equity Manager, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy

— For the past year, I have worked across the Commonwealth of Virginia to educate congregations and community members about Medicaid expansion and help them get involved to support enrollment efforts led by navigators and certified application counselors in hospitals, clinics and health centers.  Launching and growing our Health Care Hope Program has been very fulfilling.

But this work has also presented challenges that were beyond the scope of my immediate work. I have met countless women who have shared intimate, harrowing stories dealing with their local health care delivery system.

So, when the Northam Administration codified the establishment of Virginia’s Maternal Mortality Review Team, I welcomed the announcement and the Governor’s goal of reducing racial disparities by 2025.  Engaging and supporting the Team’s work would be an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of so many women.  It would not be hyperbole to call this situation an epidemic.  Black and Native American/Alaskan women in the U.S. are dying to give birth, literally.  In Virginia, Black women are 3-4 times more likely to die from factors related to pregnancy or childbirth.

This is not a stereotypical problem of poor women who lack access to quality care.  Maternal mortality rates for Black and Native American/Alaska Native women with a college education were higher than those for all other racial/ethnic groups who have less than a high school diploma. These disparities also stretch across all age groups.

Facing sexism, racism and ageism is a daunting and death-defying predicament for pregnant women of color in the Commonwealth.  It will require a coordinated effort with the community, patients, providers, elected officials, government agencies and health institutions to effectively reverse this trend.

Become a part of the solution.  Check out the link to the calendar of maternal health listening sessions (pdf calendar attached)
and join the conversation in your local area.  Join VICPP in Prince William County on Tuesday, October 8th for the session hosted at Sentara Medical Center’s Hylton Education Center, 2300 Opitz Blvd., Woodbridge, VA.