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Nebraska Lawmakers Review Racial Disparities in Maternal Medical Care

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Nebraska Legislative Bill 416 calls for more robust data collection on maternal health outcomes based on race and ethnicity to better inform clinical practice, program and policy changes. (Cheryl Holt/Pixabay)
Nebraska Legislative Bill 416 calls for more robust data collection on maternal health outcomes based on race and ethnicity to better inform clinical practice, program and policy changes. (Cheryl Holt/Pixabay)
 By Eric Galatas - Producer, Contact
March 16, 2021

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Racial-justice advocates will host a lunch and learn session for Nebraska lawmakers Wednesday to unpack striking disparities in maternal health outcomes in Nebraska and the U.S.

Currently, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than Caucasian women, and Black babies are more than twice as likely as whites to die before their first birthday.

Ashlei Spivey, founder and director of the Omaha-based collective I Be Black Girl, said the health risks are systemic, not linked to individuals.

"Race is not the problem," Spivey asserted. "There's nothing inherently wrong with Black women or birthing folk. It's understanding how racism is showing up in our medical care, and the importance of legislation to help break and dismantle that racism, that is in that institution."

Wednesday's virtual session is meant to give members of the Health and Human Services committee important context as they consider advancing Legislative Bill 416.

The measure, in sync with the Surgeon General's recommendations to improve maternal health, would boost prenatal, postpartum and other care options for mothers.

Legislative Bill 416 also would require implicit bias training for credentialed health providers.

Ashley Carroll, manager of maternal and infant health initiatives for the Nebraska March of Dimes, said training is a critical piece of addressing maternal-health disparities.

She pointed out all people, not just health-care professionals, are hard-wired to make shortcut, knee-jerk categorizations of groups of people.

"When we become aware of those natural tendencies, we are then able to recognize when we are making a generalization that could then impact our ability to deliver equitable care to patients," Carroll explained.

Compared with Caucasian women, Black women face greater financial barriers, and are more likely to be uninsured.

Black women also experience higher rates of preventable diseases and chronic health conditions.

Spivey sees Legislative Bill 416 as a step in the right direction, but added there is no quick fix or silver bullet.

"So we really need people to be committed to this, long term, because you're not going to solve institutional racism by passing one policy, by holding one training, right?" Spivey acknowledged. "This is going to need to be looked at over the course of decades."

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