Black Mothers Matter: Evaluating Racial Disparities And Advancing Maternal Justice In Texas And The United States




Zhang, Michelle

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African American women experience a disproportionate burden of severe maternal mortality cases in the United States, an issue that is particularly magnified in the state of Texas. However, maternal mortality makes up only a small percentage of severe morbidity cases, in which women experience potentially life-threatening complications during pregnancy or delivery.Examining cases of both severe morbidity and mortality could paint a clearer picture of maternal health in Texas that additionally takes into consideration a woman’s health before and after her pregnancy, as well as the sociodemographic context within which the pregnancy takes place, thus providing a better explanation for why Black women suffer from such poor maternal outcomes. My thesis reviews the current literature on adverse obstetric outcomes as they vary by race/ethnicity, considers the behavioral, social, environmental and access determinants within the context of race, and examines the extent to which public policy directly or indirectly affects maternal health within certain populations. Furthermore, while questions of access at the broader policylevel have been discussed extensively, relatively little attention has been devoted towards the value of community-based resources and local, nongovernmental initiatives in improving maternal health outcomes. Thus, another component of my thesis involves in-depth interviews with Austin-area health providers such as OB/GYNs, midwives, and nurse practitioners, pinpointing trends that could explain racial differences in maternal outcomes as well as best practices at the provider and policy levels that can work to reduce racial/ethnic disparities in maternal mortality and morbidity.



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