What is Birth Equity?

Pregnancy and childbirth can be incredibly special and powerful experiences for women. Unfortunately, due to long-standing systemic racism in U.S. health care and social systems, a lack of prenatal and postnatal care results in a higher likelihood of mortality and pregnancy-related health issues for Black women.

The National Birth Equity Collaborative defines birth equity as “the assurance of the conditions of optimal births for all people with a willingness to address racial and social inequities in a sustained effort.”

By addressing birth equity through the lens of understanding how structural racism and health inequities affect maternal and infant health, we can begin to improve outcomes for women of color.

Impact of Birth Inequity

According to Global Communities, a nonprofit that brings together local ingenuity and global insights to save lives, advance equity and secure strong futures worldwide, birth inequity is “rooted in institutional racism and implicit biases, and impacted by the social determinants of health.”

Global Communities notes that “Black women are three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than their white peers.”

Additionally, data collected between 2007 and 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System show that the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 40.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is more than three times the rate for white women, which was 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births.

There is a profound difference in the healthcare pregnant mothers receive depending on their race, environment and income. The data is indisputable.

According to the National Birth Equity Collaborative, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world where maternal mortality is rising, noting that the U.S. has nearly the highest maternal mortality rate among high-income countries. Each year, approximately 700 American women die during pregnancy, childbirth or subsequent complications.

Working on Solutions

Doctors have discovered that to better care for Black babies, there needs to be better care for mothers. By focusing on the mother’s experience through the pregnancy and birth period, safer, healthier conditions can be created for both the moms and babies.

The California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC) has determined that birth equity can be best achieved through some key actions that any health care organization can adapt to their own practices:

Local Initiatives

San Diego Foundation, in partnership with the Dr. Seuss Foundation, recently awarded $1.25 million in grants to nonprofits supporting young children, ages 0 – 5, and their families in San Diego County, including grants to expand services that aim to achieve birth equity and promote safe, healthy pregnancy and birth conditions for mothers and babies.

These include:

Grants also funded projects that focus on:

The 2022 Early Childhood Initiative Equitable Opportunities Grant supports nonprofit organizations implementing strategic efforts to build regional resilience by increasing equitable access to high-quality, affordable early education, care and support services for young children and their caretakers.

Learn more about our Early Childhood Initiative and consider an online donation to help provide all children and their families access to the early care, education and resources they need to flourish, including increasing access to care.

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