Los Angeles communities can thrive when more African-American women have full-term births

Health Net

July 25, 2019

Statistics show about one in 10 babies in the United States is born prematurely each year. That’s a staggering number considering babies born too early can have health and social problems that follow them for a lifetime.

The reality is that preterm births affect everyone: mom, baby and society in general. According to the Institute of Medicine, the problems range from financial to medical. They are estimated to cost $26.2 billion yearly. Some of those costs include:

  • Labor and delivery costs for mom
  • Early intervention services for developmental delays in baby
  • Special education learning services for child
  • Loss of workplace productivity for L.A. businesses
  • Loss of pay for mom

African-American moms and babies

In addition to premature births, black moms are also four times more likely to die during childbirth than white moms. Black babies are also three times more likely to die before their first birthday compared to white babies.

Why is this?

Decades of research suggest that African-American women have specific life experiences that can affect them emotionally and physically for a lifetime – including during pregnancy and childbirth. They include:

  • Toxic relationship stress
  • Racial bias in health care
  • Societal and systemic racism

What’s more, these issues affect black women across the socioeconomic spectrum.

Shifting the statistics

What if we invested in informing black women and the health care system on what it takes for black moms to have a successful term birth? Would the outcomes be a stronger health care system and better lives?

At Health Net, we think yes.

Our approach in understanding and meeting the specific needs of black pregnant women would mean better mental and physical health for these moms and babies. This could mean brighter futures, with less sickness and infant mortality, and moms able to stay in school. It would also mean greater workplace productivity in our L.A. businesses.

Partnerships that help empower

Health Net recently partnered with the Hospital Association of Southern California through its Communities Lifting Communities initiative. Both are working together with the Public Health Alliance of Southern California to find the gaps in the health care system and begin intervening.

Already, the partnership has formed The Cherished Futures for Black Moms & Babies initiative to develop and implement activities that unite:

  • Hospitals
  • Local public health departments
  • Community health care providers
  • State partners
  • Advocates in reducing preterm births and infant death

A pilot program will begin soon in South Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley – two L.A. County areas with the highest rate of preterm births. The program, called the African American Preterm Birth Outcome project, seeks to:

  • build partnerships between hospitals and stakeholders;
  • assess hospital preterm birth rates by race/ethnicity and develop solutions with leadership;
  • establish agreements for data collection to monitor progress over time;
  • use the California Healthy Places Index (HPI) to assess community conditions;
  • provide technical assistance and support to participating hospitals; and
  • evaluate the interventions and develop a final report with health impacts and lessons learned.

The goal: To develop effective interventions at the clinical, organizational and community level.

Care from conception through post-partum

Included in the research and discovery will be deep data assessments that pinpoint where the hot spots are, including where women live and how they receive services. The more insight we can get into patient experiences, the better we can intervene. We can then start to unravel the consequences of cultural experiences, and offer care that will target these issues.

When this kind of care lasts through post-partum, we expect to see:

  • Fewer maternal and infant deaths
  • More mentally and physically healthy people in the African-American community
  • Greater financial security
  • More productivity in the workplace

Health Net, its partners and Cherished Futures for Black Moms & Babies believe that these efforts will provide the foundation for healthier outcomes for black moms and babies throughout Los Angeles County.

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