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Morehouse School of Medicine studying maternal health inequities among Black mothers

Georgia, New Jersey, Louisiana and the District of Columbia all have the highest maternal mortality rates among Black women in the U.S., according to a release.

ATLANTA — Morehouse School of Medicine announced Thursday it is researching inequities among pregnant and postpartum Black women.

Black mothers in Georgia, New Jersey, Louisiana and the District of Columbia are interviewing about a condition called Maternal Near Misses (MNM)- a condition that occurs when a woman nearly dies but survives from a complication during pregnancy. Morehouse School of Medicine said the condition can occur during childbirth or within 42 days of terminating a pregnancy. 

According to a release, incarcerated women will also participate in the study. 

More than 700 women die each year in this country from problems related to pregnancy or delivery complications – this is not only tragic but largely preventable,” President Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, Morehouse School of Medicine said. 

The release stated Georgia, New Jersey, Louisiana and the District of Columbia all have the highest maternal mortality rates among Black women in the U.S. 

Morehouse School of Medicine said an estimated 50,000 women experience severe or unexpected health problems during pregnancy that could lead to long-term health problems. 

The research will incorporate first-hand accounts from women who have experienced MNM during birth or pregnancy. 

RELATED: Morehouse School of Medicine receives Goldman Sachs Grant to support Black women's health

"The insights will identify ways to provide more equitable care to this community and be used as data points to influence maternal health legislation, clinical practice, and health care strategy," a release stated. 

Optum, a UnitedHealth Group, provided a $95,000 grant for the research and will contribute an estimated $300,000 in services to help research. 

“Optum is committed to addressing the nation’s maternal health crisis where poor outcomes disproportionately impact communities of color,” Dr. Janice Huckaby, chief medical officer, Maternal-Child Health, Optum said. “By partnering with the Morehouse School of Medicine we will conduct important research that will help improve the health of mothers and newborns.”

Interim Director for Morehouse's Center for Maternal Health Equity Dr. Natalie Hernandez said the goal of the project is to lift up Black women and other women of color and share their stories. 

"The information will help educate women and those who care for them and support them about the urgent warning signs of pregnancy-related complications," she said in a release. "We also plan to submit their stories to the National Library of Medicine, to ensure these women’s voices will not only be heard but never forgotten.”