LONG ISLAND, RACE & MORTALITY DISPARITY

July 20, 2019 at 4:30 am

On Long Island, black women and their babies are four times more likely to die during childbirth as their white neighbors. Why is this happening and what is being done to help save their lives?

Aired on August 2, 2018 & July 17, 2019. 

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>>> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO
"METROFOCUS."
I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.
ON LONG ISLAND, A DEADLY
DISPARITY HAS BEEN DISCOVERED
AMONG INFANTS AND MOTHERS.
BLACK WOMEN AND THEIR BABIES ARE
FOUR TIMES MORE LIKELY TO DIE
DURING CHILDBIRTH THAN WHITE
COUNTERPARTS.
WHY?
WHAT'S CAUSING THIS HIGH RATE OF
DEATH AMONG WOMEN AND INFANTS OF
COLOR, AND WHAT IS BEING DONE TO
SAVE LIVES?
JOINING US WITH THE DETAILS OF
THIS CRISIS AND HOW ONE GROUP IS
MAKING AN EFFORT TO END THE
DISPARITY, DR. NELLIE TAYLOR
WALKER AND MARTEEN HACKETT, A
NONPROFIT WORKING TO SAVE
AFRICAN-AMERICAN BABIES AND
THEIR MOTHERS.
LADIES, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.
>> THANK YOU.
>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.
>> SO FIRST I JUST WANT TO START
OFF WITH, HOW WAS IT THAT THIS
DISPARITY CAME TO YOUR
ATTENTION?
HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO SEE CLEARLY
THE NUMBERS THAT THERE WAS A
PROBLEM IN TERMS OF DEATH RATES
DURING BIRTH?
>> WELL, I FIRST BECAME AWARE OF
THE ALARMING NUMBER OF INFANTS
THAT WERE DYING BEFORE THEIR
FIRST BIRTHDAY WAS ABOUT SIX OR
SEVEN YEARS AGO WHEN THE
STATISTICS CAME OUT OF THE
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH.
AND IT SHOWED THAT THERE WERE
THREE COMMUNITIES, ROOSEVELT,
HEMSTEAD AND WESTBURY NEW
CASTLE, ROOSEVELT THE HIGHEST,
HEMSTEAD SECOND, AND NEW CASTLE
THE THIRD HIGHEST WHERE
AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOULD DIE
BEFORE THEIR FIRST BIRTHDAY,
WITH A HIGH INFANT MORTALITY
RATE, AND MANY BABIES WERE BORN
BELOW THE NORMAL BIRTH WEIGHT.
AT THAT POINT, IT WAS VERY
ALARMING TO ME, ESPECIALLY SINCE
THE COMMUNITY OF WESTBURY NEW
CASTLE IS ONE OF THE COMMUNITIES
I WORK IN.
I'VE BEEN WORKING IN THAT
COMMUNITY FOR 30 YEARS.
SO I TOOK IT PERSONALLY.
AND I SAID, WOW, WE HAVE TO DO
SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.
SO THAT -- THROUGH OUR NATIONAL
COUNTY NETWORK COMMITTEE, I
JOINED UP WITH MARTEEN AND WE
DID SEVERAL EVENTS TO BRING
AWARENESS AND REALLY EXPLORE
THIS DISPARITY IN THESE THREE
COMMUNITIES.
AND THE PARALLEL BETWEEN WHAT IS
HAPPENING IN THESE COMMUNITIES
VERSUS WHAT IS HAPPENING IN SOME
OF THE OTHER COMMUNITIES.
THERE IS A BIG DISPARITY.
>> AND I JUST WANT TO GET A
LITTLE CLEARER FOR THE AUDIENCE.
ARE WE TALKING JUST DEATHS
DURING CHILDBIRTH, AS A RESULT
OF CHILDBIRTH, OR BABIES DYING
BEFORE THEIR FIRST BIRTHDAY?
AND DO WE HAVE A GENERAL
UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT MIGHT BE
CAUSING THIS?
>> YES, SO WE'RE TALKING ABOUT
TWO DIFFERENT THINGS.
OR I SHOULD SAY TWO INTERRELATED
TOPICS.
ONE IS INFANT MORTALITY.
THAT'S THE DEATH OF AN INFANT
UNDER ONE YEAR.
THAT CAN BE WITHIN THE FIRST FEW
HOURS, MONTHS, DAYS, WEEKS OF
BIRTH.
THAT INFANT MORTALITY RATE IS
CAUSED BY PREMATURITY AND LOW
BIRTHRATE.
WE KNOW THAT WE SEE BIG
DIFFERENCES, ACCORDING TO THE
DEATH RATE FROM GROUPS ACROSS
NASSAU COUNTY AND DIFFERENT
COMMUNITIES.
WE'RE ALSO TALKING ABOUT
MATERNAL MORTALITY.
MATERNAL MORTALITY IS THE DEATH
OF A WOMAN AFTER CHILDBIRTH UP
UNTIL ONE YEAR AFTER CHILDBIRTH.
SO IT COULD BE SOMETHING THAT'S
DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE BIRTH,
LIKE HEMORRHAGE OR A BLOOD CLOT,
OR IT CAN BE OTHER RELATED
DISEASES THAT ARE -- THAT GET
WORSE AFTER CHILDBIRTH.
AND SO BOTH OF THESE THINGS ARE
AREAS THAT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED
IN WAYS THAT SORT OF UNDERSTAND
WHY THESE DISPARITIES AND
DIFFERENCES EXIST, AND RECOGNIZE
THAT NOT ALL COMMUNITIES ARE
BEING -- HAVE FAIRLY EQUAL
ACCESS TO THE THINGS THAT CAN
HELP TO PREVENT THEM.
>> OF COURSE.
AND ONE OF THE FIRST QUESTIONS
THAT COMES TO MIND IS, IS THERE
A ROLE THAT POVERTY MIGHT BE
PLAYING INTO THIS?
BUT AT THE SAME TIME WE'VE SEEN
SEVERAL REPORTS THAT HAVE PRETTY
MUCH LAID OUT THAT THERE IS A
DISPARITY IN THE QUALITY OF
HEALTH CARE THAT NOT JUST WOMEN
OF COLOR, BUT PARTICULARLY BLACK
WOMEN GET AS OPPOSED TO WITH
THEIR WHITE COUNTERPARTS?
WERE YOU FINDING THAT IN YOUR
RESEARCH?
>> ABSOLUTELY.
THIS IS SOMETHING THAT'S SADLY
NOT A NEW STATISTIC THAT WE SEE
THAT CARE IS DIFFERENT ACROSS
DIFFERENT GROUPS, SPECIFICALLY
AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN.
AND SO WHAT WE FOUND IS THAT
EVEN THOUGH PEOPLE WOULD
GENERALLY THINK THIS IS
SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS IN
CITIES, RIGHT, AND WE KNOW THAT
IN NEW YORK CITY THAT THERE IS A
HIGH, BOTH MATERNAL MORTALITY
AND BLACK INFANT MORTALITY RATE.
BUT THE TRUTH IS, WHEN WE START
TO LOOK AT THESE RATES IN NASSAU
COUNTY, IS SUBURBAN AREA, WE
ACTUALLY SEE THAT HERE.
MANY OF THE REASONS ARE THE
SAME.
DIFFERENTIAL TREATMENT.
WOMEN NOT BEING TREATED WITH
RESPECT AND CULTURALLY
APPROPRIATE CARE.
AND SOMETHING THAT'S CALLED DENY
AND DELAY.
THAT WHEN WOMEN SORT OF EXPRESS
THAT SOMETHING DOESN'T FEEL
RIGHT, THAT THEY ARE NOT SORT OF
GIVEN THE ATTENTION THAT THEY
ARE -- AND RESPECT THAT THEY ARE
PROBABLY ACTUALLY ACCURATELY
IDENTIFYING.
AND SO THE EXAMPLE OF SERENA
WILLIAMS AND HER -- THE
AFTERMATH OF HER BIRTH IS AN
EXAMPLE OF THIS, THAT HERE IS
SOMEBODY WHO HAS, YOU KNOW,
POVERTY IS NOT AN ISSUE, BUT YET
SHE IDENTIFIED THAT SHE'S
FEELING THE RESULTS OF A
PULMONARY EMBOLISM OR A BLOOD
CLOT IN HER LUNGS AND WAS DENIED
AND DELAYED IN TERMS OF HER
ACCESS TO CARE AND CAME CLOESE O
DEATH.
THIS IS SOMETHING THAT WE
RECOGNIZE COMES ACROSS ALL
SOCIOECONOMIC STATUSES LONG ALL
BLACK WOMEN.
>> HOW ARE YOU ADVISING WOMEN TO
ADDRESS OR APPROACH THEIR
TREATMENT, ESPECIALLY WHEN
THEY'RE IN SUCH A DELICATE
MATERNAL STATE?
>> I THINK EARLY INTERVENTION
AND EARLY EDUCATION.
AND THAT'S ONE OF THE FOCUS OF
THE BIRTH JUSTICE WARRIORS
PROJECT IS, IS TO PROVIDE
EDUCATION, AWARENESS, BRING
ATTENTION TO THE STRESSES, BRING
ATTENTION TO THE DISPARITIES
THAT MANY AFRICAN-AMERICAN
MOTHERS ARE FACED WITH ON A
DAILY BASIS, AND TO COME UP WITH
STRATEGIES THAT, ON A LOCAL
LEVEL, ON A STATE LEVEL, AND
EVEN ON A NATIONAL LEVEL, TO
MAKE SURE THAT THE PLAYING FIELD
IS LEVEL, THAT THERE ARE NO
DISPARITIES, THERE BE EQUAL
DISTRIBUTION OF THE RESOURCES TO
REACH THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN
MOTHERS SO THAT THEY CAN GIVE
BIRTH.
BECAUSE THAT'S OUR DESIRE, THAT
EVERY MOTHER SHOULD HAVE A
HEALTHY PREGNANCY AND HAVE A
HEALTHY BABY, AND BE ABLE TO
IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF LIFE
THROUGHOUT NASSAU COUNTY.
>> VERY QUICKLY, I DO WANT TO
ASK, SHOULD A NEW MOTHER TO BE
COME TO YOU AND SAY, YOU KNOW,
I'VE READ ALL THESE REPORTS, I
AM A BLACK WOMAN, I'M PREGNANT,
I'M CONCERNED, WHAT DO YOU
SUGGEST THAT I MAKE SURE TO LET
MY DOCTOR KNOW, OR TO BE VERY
FORCEFUL ABOUT?
>> ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE
WOULD SAY THAT'S EXTREMELY
IMPORTANT IS TO BE AWARE OF THE
RISKS AFTER BIRTH.
AND SO WE KNOW THAT AFTER BIRTH
IT'S OFTEN THE ATTENTION IS
RIGHT TO THAT BRAND NEW BABY AND
NOT TO MOM.
WE KNOW THAT AFTER A WOMAN
DELIVERS A BABY, THAT SHE IS AT
RISK FOR MANY OF THE LEADING
CAUSES OF MATERNAL MORTALITY.
HOWEVER, MOST WOMEN AREN'T EVEN
MADE AWARE OF WHAT THOSE CAUSES
ARE, OR WHAT SOME OF THE WARNING
SIGNS OF THEM ARE.
SO I WOULD -- ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT WE WOULD SAY IS POST
DISCHARGE, BEFORE WOMEN ARE
DISCHARGED, FOR THEM TO KNOW
WHAT THEY'RE LOOKING FOR, IN
TERMS OF FEELING FEVER, AND NOT
TO DENY AND DELAY.
AND WE ALSO KNOW THAT CARE FOR A
MOTHER AFTER DELIVERY IS
SOMETHING WE CONSIDER
UNBELIEVELY INTEGRAL TO THIS
WORK.
>> LISTEN, LADIES, THANK YOU
BOTH SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.
>> THANK YOU.
>> AND FOR THE WORK THAT YOU DO.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON BIRTH
JUSTICE WARRIORS, VISIT US AT
METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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