MAC is proud to partner with the National Birth Equity Collaborative (NBEC) to conduct research and advocacy around the unacceptably high infant and maternal mortality rates experienced by Black women in the US. Founded and led by Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, NBEC aims to reduce Black maternal and infant mortality through research, family-centered collaboration, and advocacy. Reducing the incidence of Black infant death is an urgent and necessary step towards achieving health equity and improving the health of the entire nation.
NBEC staff interviewed 18 women who had recently experienced an infant loss. Commonly occurring themes included personal challenges with mental health, trauma, grieving and counseling, negative interpersonal interactions with health care providers and the health care system, and the struggles these women faced within their households, neighborhoods, communities, and our racially-stratified society.
Guided by their stories, MAC and NBEC analyzed data from 100 US cities on characteristics of the places in which women live, work, become pregnant and receive care that may influence the likelihood that they will experience an infant loss. Cities with higher rates of homicide, larger degree of racial residential segregation, a larger population with limited access to healthy foods, poorer mental and physical health indicators, and higher levels of air pollution had higher Black infant mortality rates compared to other cities. The gap between White and Black infant mortality rates was wider in these cities as well. We developed a birth equity index to measure all of these characteristics simultaneously and score cities’ overall degree of access to resources and opportunities for better health within the social and physical environment and specifically among Black members of the community.
We continue to develop the index for use by public health agencies and institutions across the US to capture holistically the community-level characteristics that underlie incidents of infant and maternal mortality. It is our hope to ultimately facilitate cities’ use of data to identify factors amenable to community- or policy-based interventions to reduce mortality and improve maternal and child health. This work dovetails with our collaboration with the Tulane Newcomb College Institute (NCI), NBEC, and several community and Tulane partners on racial disparities in adverse birth outcomes, detailed in our report released last fall.