The Need for a Maternal Health Professional Pipeline to Reduce Health Disparities
Mansi Rana, Sereena Jivraj, Leah Franklin, & Eimaan Anwar
Discussing maternal health within the United States without addressing the experiences of Black birthing people is a large reason why severe racial birthing outcome disparities continue to prevail. Black infants are two times more likely to die before reaching the age of one; Black birthing people are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications compared to their white counterparts.1 The maternal and child health professional pipeline reflects the complexities of public health issues that impact mothers, children, families, and communities. Health professionals can improve these outcomes through advocacy, education, and research to strengthen the healthcare delivery system.
Maternal health professionals promote the health of pregnant people and children by providing quality sexual reproductive health care and family planning practices. As disparities in maternal and infant mortality are entrenched in racism, health care professionals should seek sources to better familiarize themselves with the topic, but also value and treat their patients with respect and dignity. Many maternal deaths that happen are preventable and with the cooperation of an empathetic health care worker, lives can be saved. According to findings from maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs) in collaboration with the CDC Foundation, roughly 60% of maternal fatalities are avoidable. The percentages are considerably higher for the most prevalent complications linked to maternal mortality, such as hemorrhage, which is really 70 percent preventable.3 Having health care professionals develop programs that support reproductive health care, screen and treat individuals at risk for preterm delivery, and reduce prenatal care gaps is vital in promoting more positive birth outcomes.
In the United States, over half of all pregnancies are unplanned, with three quarters occurring in women under the age of 20.2 Since pregnancy-related risks are highly correlated to infant deaths, preterm delivery is a major contributor to infant mortality inequalities between races. As such, maternal health professionals should be equipped to care for others and ensure that a diverse public health and wellness system is in place to deliver health services to all communities, expand coverage, and reduce healthcare disparities. Vaginal delivery after a C-section is one of the challenges that many Black birthing people endure.3 Their risk assessment tests are far more stringent than ones given to white individuals.1 Therefore, health care professionals must review clinical techniques, such as providing a trial of labor after C-section, to ensure a healthy vaginal birth following a previous cesarean delivery. This can only be accomplished by expanding programs and pipelines to eliminate disparities and reduce health inequalities.
Pipeline programs are a powerful mechanism for addressing bigotry and lack of diversity in the healthcare workforce. In addition, programs are beneficial in building a diverse cadre of healthcare professionals, which helps to eliminate inequities. Racism has infiltrated medical education and the practice in many ways, for example, pain tolerance evaluation. These attitudes have an impact on how quickly Black people receive essential treatment from healthcare providers. It is necessary to improve comprehension of how racism impacts treatment and puts the lives of Black people at risk; pipeline initiatives help educate healthcare workers in clinical settings. The main goal here is to create systemic change in the current system that has persistently failed Black parents and infants over the years.
The MOTHER Lab is a place where different types of medical professionals cooperate to eliminate maternal health disparities and encourage women to enter the workforce. This includes three committees composed of outstanding maternal and child health scholars, students, and activists. Furthermore, approximately half of MOTHER Lab’s members are pre-med students, fostering the next generation of OB/GYNs and birth professionals. Here, at the MOTHER Lab, we all work as a team to address and advocate for maternal health inequities for Black birthing people through solution-focused research and policy interventions, community education, strong collaborations, and stakeholder engagement. We also encourage anyone passionate about maternal health inequities to conduct welcoming and inclusive research focusing on minorities.
Professional pipelines like the MOTHER Lab are here to improve healthcare. The more dedicated and impassioned the healthcare workforce is, the more healthcare professionals can work to improve maternal and child health outcomes.