This week is Black Maternal Health Week, and April is National Minority Health Month. It’s an opportunity to “deepen the conversation” about black maternal health in the U.S. and to highlight the “important role individuals and organizations can play” in helping to reduce health disparities and improve the health of racial and ethnic minority communities.

Closing health equity gaps to ensure all people in our communities have access to quality health care is a priority for hospitals and health systems every day of the year. But now is a good time to reexamine or focus on health equity issues, identify what more can be done and take action.

Gaps in maternal health care for Black women persist: Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of these gaps have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The root causes of such gaps are complex and include preexisting conditions, structural racism and a lack of access to perinatal and obstetric services or support systems.

The AHA’s Maternal and Child Health webpage includes case studies, tools, best practices and other resources focused on safeguarding the health of mothers and babies. The AHA supports a number of federal public policy and legislative actions that improve maternal health across the continuum of care and reduce disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality. As part of its commitment to illuminate these issues and improve black maternal health, the AHA is hosting a screening and discussion of “Toxic: A Black Woman’s Story,” open to all AHA members this Thursday, April 14.

At Henry Ford Health, we’ve been laser-focused on reducing infant and maternal mortality in Detroit’s Black communities. One example is the Women-Inspired Neighborhood Network: Detroit, a program of the Detroit Regional Infant Morality Reduction Task Force. A partnership among the major health systems serving Detroit, the task force has worked to find lasting, collaborative solutions to address the persistently high infant mortality rates in the region. As part of WIN, community health workers and certified nurse midwives guide new and expectant mothers through a safety net of social, emotional and clinical supports. This enhanced model of group prenatal care for Black women ages 18–45 has succeeded in improving maternal health and birth outcomes.

We know that improving maternal health for Black women is only part of many efforts needed by our health care organizations and community partners to close health equity gaps. A commitment to women’s health, healthy pregnancy and a good start for all children is a cornerstone to improving our nation’s health.

As a reminder: The AHA Accelerating Health Equity Conference is May 10–12 in Cleveland. Be sure to check out the agenda and encourage your team members focused on advancing health equity, community health and well-being to attend.

Wright L. Lassiter III
AHA Chair


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