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AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Experts in public health, maternal health discuss Black maternal mortality and complications in US

Experts+in+maternal+health+discussed+issues+surrounding+the+health+inequities+affecting+Black+people%2C+who+often+have+worse+maternal+outcomes+due+to+systemic+racism.+
Jennifer Igbonoba | Staff Photographer
Experts in maternal health discussed issues surrounding the health inequities affecting Black people, who often have worse maternal outcomes due to systemic racism.

A panel of health experts discussed Black maternal health problems and their history in the U.S. health care system at the University Student Center Thursday.

Experts in maternal health Uwaila Stewart, Sydney Durrah, Allison Stewart and Brenice Duroseau discussed issues surrounding the health inequities affecting Black people, who often have worse maternal outcomes due to systemic racism. The event was a part of a series of presentations during the annual Diversity Summit last week.

Uwaila Stewart, a first-year master of public health student, said the U.S. is the “most dangerous industrialized nation” to give birth in, with about 700 maternal deaths occurring annually within its borders. For Black women in the U.S., the risk of child delivery is far greater than for white women, as they are about two to three times “more likely” to die of pregnancy-related complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As a nation, we spend more on health care than any other country in the world, yet our maternal health outcomes are some of the worst in the world,” Stewart said.

Stewart also gave a brief history on the treatment of Black women throughout U.S. medical history, including sexual violence against Black enslaved women during the Jim Crow era, James Marion Sims’ gynecological experiments on enslaved women in the late 1800s and teaching hospitals forced sterilization in the 20th century.

Stewart said reproductive health is an issue for everybody and encouraged the audience to consider it when voting on the ballot for the upcoming 2024 election.

“Be very aware and be cognizant of what’s going on,” Stewart said. “We cannot afford any more, we’ve never been able to, but we definitely can’t afford any more to just let things go and let them slide and be like, ‘You know what, somebody else will take care of it,’ because if you’re not upset about it, who’s to say anybody else will be?”

Stewart said the historical mistreatment of Black women by the American medical system is causing deaths like April Valentine, a woman who died in California in January after experiencing pain in her legs that nurses at the hospital she delivered at “ignored.”

Duroseau, a family nurse practitioner, said doctors may not listen to patients’ concerns and suggestions about their own health because of their own confidence in their skills and position of power, and she encouraged patients to counteract these common occurrences and advocate for themselves in the doctor’s office.

“We need to take it down a notch and realize we’re humans, these are humans, and we don’t know it all and medicine changes,” Duroseau said.

Durrah, a first-year master of public health student, said patients should not let doctors downplay symptoms, especially if they have a chronic condition.

“When you go to the doctor’s, don’t let them try and blame it on the fact that you have asthma because it could be more than asthma,” Durrah said.

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