February is Black History Month. In addition to posting information about Black women’s health, we are sharing what we’ve done to help address care concerns and bring about meaningful change at Virginia Women’s Center and in our community.
In late 2020/early 2021, Virginia Women’s Center physicians and staff participated in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training led by Keith Berkle, MD, Karen Jefferson, MD and Terri Page, DNP. In addition to training sessions, physicians and staff were given access to tools to help them identify their personal implicit bias. This year, we will continue our DEI educational efforts engaging outside expertise and searching and recruiting physicians to ensure a diverse workforce.
Despite improvements in recent years, Black women are at higher risk for “preventable” medical conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular conditions, anemia, diabetes, and obesity. These underlying conditions often result in high-risk pregnancies with pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, and gestational diabetes. Even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, access to health care, and other medical conditions, compared to white women, pregnant Black women are:
- Three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause;
- Three times more likely to have fibroids that grow in the uterus and can cause postpartum hemorrhaging
- 23% more likely to have a heart attack;
- 57% more likely to have a stroke;
- 42% more likely to develop a blood clot in the lungs; and,
- 71% more likely to develop heart muscle weakness
As healthcare providers, we recognize that statistics on health equity and access to care are disheartening.
In May, we kicked off a conversation series to learn how to better care for women of color. These individual and group conversations allowed us to shine a light and pull out of the darkness the health care challenges Black women face; to get direct input from women of color in our community and share it with providers and administrators who want to affect change. Additionally, the series enables us to funnel relevant information from trusted health sources to help Black women make better health decisions, address vaccine hesitancy by sharing information about the COVID-19 vaccine, and more.
Maternal and infant health reflect race, gender, poverty, and other social determinants. As healthcare professionals, we are committed to listening to women of color and providing culturally sensitive patient-centered care. We are continually looking at ways to improve care and help educate Black women about living healthier lifestyles. Because, we believe that all women deserve safe and healthy pregnancies, childbirth and lives.