White House announces steps to curb Black maternal mortality rate

President Joe Biden announced steps to address the high mortality rate among Black mothers in the United States, saying they’re often not getting the proper care because of racial biases. 

The White House provided step-by-step details and highlighted general ways to curb the deaths such as making health care more affordable and accessible to minorities and tackling systemic racism.

"In the United States of America, a person’s race should never determine their health outcomes, and pregnancy and childbirth should be safe for all," Biden said in a statement. "However, for far too many Black women, safety and equity have been tragically denied."

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According to the White House, the country’s maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the developed world, and they are especially high among Black mothers, who die from complications related to pregnancy at roughly two to three times the rate of white, Hispanic, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women — regardless of their income or education levels.

"We know the primary reasons why: systemic racial inequities and implicit bias," Vice President Kamala Harris said during a session on Black mental health Tuesday. "And the consequences are both very real." 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define pregnancy-related deaths "as the death of a woman during pregnancy or within one year of the end of pregnancy from a pregnancy complication." Types of complications can include anemia, urinary tract infections, hypertension, diabetes and mental health issues, according to the CDC.

"And over the year — years, I've heard many stories," Harris continued. "Stories of women who are experiencing postpartum depression, only to be dismissed. Stories of women telling their doctors they were experiencing pain, only to be ignored."

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Harris said the Maternal CARE Act is in Biden’s budget proposal which will dedicate $30 million for implicit bias training for health care providers. Under the recently passed American Rescue Plan, the latest COVID-19 relief bill, Biden lowered health insurance premiums for millions of families and extended Medicaid coverage for people who are postpartum, according to Harris.

Biden also said the country must do better in recognizing the causes of Black maternal mortality, and said more data collection is needed to better understand pregnancy complications, as well as investment in community-based organizations that will help reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the health care system.

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The CDC said in 2019 that hospitals should standardize their medical protocols particularly at facilities that serve disproportionately affected communities.

Biden designated this week as "Black Maternal Health Week," urging Americans to raise awareness about the issue and contribute ideas and ways to prevent more deaths.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.