I recently learned about the troubling statistics that pregnant Black women are three to four times more likely to die than their counterparts, while 60% of those deaths were preventable, according to the CDC. In spite of the disproportion of healthcare and health rights, not enough has been done to truly revolutionize the safety and wellness of Black mothers and babies within the healthcare system. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black maternal health crisis has only worsened due to limited resources and education provided for Black mothers in need of security.
There are many stories about difficult pregnancies with no or minor prior health issues, unresponsive medical staff who ignore mothers’ concerns, and a lack of knowledge about the resources available to make the birthing and pregnancy process more safe and comfortable. There were many misconceptions that this issue mostly impacted poor, uneducated women, but some of today’s most well-known Black women such as Beyonce and Serena Williams have shared similar experiences. Learning all this motivated me to explore reproductive and maternal education opportunities in the Boston area.
The Resilient Sisterhood Project was one of the few reproductive-focused nonprofits in Boston that I came across, which is why their work is so valuable! As I studied in my HSSP courses, health factors, racial and environmental barriers all contribute to health inequalities and the challenge of obtaining and accessing quality healthcare for many Black women and families around the country even within our local community. But like many health disparities faced by people of color, Black maternal disparities can be avoided and improved through education and awareness. Even though this internship is completely remote, it’s interesting to see the many strategies RSP has implemented to create their online presence and ensure that their work is attainable and accessible to the public.
There are numerous approaches to reducing healthcare disparities, such as providing remote access to reproductive health information. COVID-19 has changed the experience of in-person internships, but this summer challenged me to venture beyond my comfort zone and develop new skills such as graphic design, content writing, blog posting, and more. As I mentioned in my first blog, I am developing a research project based on the lack of preconception health education among Black women, which can contribute to the high death rate. RSP has allowed me to come up with innovative ways to grab the attention and awareness of young Black women through podcasts and circle gatherings. I hope to continue and expand on this way of communicating in order to create various projects that serve Black women, Black babies, Black families, and coming generations.
As my internship comes to an end, I am considering how I can bring what I learned from RSP back to Brandeis and expand the goals of educating prospective STEM professionals on Black maternal and reproductive health. Altogether, I am grateful for this opportunity, the networks, the experience, and the mentorship from the team of women who have had an influence in public health.