In 2013, the Mary Amelia Douglas-Whited Community Women’s Health Education Center (MAC) partnered with the Newcomb College Institute at Tulane University and others to tell the story through research of how racial and socioeconomic inequality affects the health and well-being of women and girls throughout the greater New Orleans area. This report, 2013 Report on the Health of Women and Girls in Greater New Orleans, examined a number of women’s health issues in Louisiana including health and wellness behavior, reproductive health, chronic diseases, cancer and infectious diseases. The commonality across each of these domains was marked health disparities along racial and socioeconomic lines.
MAC developed a strategic plan to delve deeper into each domain to identify and investigate the historical catalysts behind the racial and socioeconomic barriers that have shaped today’s health disparities. Much of MAC’s research is focused on adverse birth outcomes and place-based interventions, making reproductive health an accessible and familiar subject on which to begin. Therefore, reproductive health became the subject of this, our first sub-study entitled, The Health of Women & Girls in Louisiana: Racial Disparities in Birth Outcomes.
This report explores how historical and contemporary racist systems unfairly limit access to wealth, income, safe housing, quality education, and health care for communities of color in Louisiana. As a result, they are unable to sustain an equitable quality of life including optimal health and well-being. The study starts with a historical account of Louisiana’s maternal healthcare system, marred by systematic racism, to today’s societal conditions characterized inequitable healthcare, education, and employment in communities where Louisiana women and girls live, work and play. The study then illuminates community and individual factors such as access to health care providers and lack of income making healthcare coverage inaccessible for many women and girls across the state. The Health of Women and Girls in Louisiana: Racial Disparities in Birth Outcomes is intended for anyone working with women of reproductive age, those interested in maternal and child health or public health, those involved in the healthcare system. It educates us all on the racial and socioeconomic components that established and continue to perpetuate Louisiana’s reproductive health disparities.