NOW THAT IT IS the political season where divisiveness rules the day, the bevy of president wannabes' interest in maternal health is suspect. After all, none of them have joined the many maternal health advocates who praised Pres. Donald Trump for signing into law the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which gives grants to the states to help identify the causes of maternal mortality.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American and American Indian/Alaska Native women are about three times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause as white women. These politicians are neither epidemiologists nor medical personnel, yet they have diagnosed differences in maternal outcomes of black women as a product of racism. Their racial pandering serves to foment disharmony rather than initiate an honest examination of the problem.
Of course, those vying for political real estate will not preface their theories with some medical facts: uterine leiomyomas (fibroids), a cause of postpartum hemorrhage, are present in three times as many black women as white women, or that the higher rates of high blood pressure in African-Americans may be due to a gene that makes them more salt sensitive. Perhaps this contributes to the 50% higher incidence of hypertension of pregnancy (pre-eclampsia/eclampsia) in black women than in any other racial or ethnic group.
White and Hispanic women substantially have the same rate of the disease, while Asian and Pacific Island women have the lowest rate of any ethnic group. A noted black female obstetrician patient safety and risk management specialist called the cause of pre-eclampsia a "mystery," noting, "Older schools of thought attempted to use socioeconomic status as a reason to explain the problem, but it doesn't hold up under statistical analysis."
Do these politicians who label medical personnel as racists also tell you that 11% of obstetrician-gynecologists are black women (same as the general black population) and they are more likely than white or Asian obgyns to practice in federally funded underserved areas and areas with high poverty levels? Are these physicians racists?
Health problems are multifactorial and must be researched rigorously. While bias and social factors cannot be ignored, painting medical care personnel as racists will not advance the conversation, nor will depriving medical personnel of their religious rights eliminate discrimination in the delivery of medical care.