Mothers Die Too

New research funded by the Gates Foundation demonstrates that, while maternal mortality rates continue to fall around the world, deaths of women due to complications from childbirth in the United States, is actually on the increase. How can this be in the wealthiest nation on earth?

First of all, it needs to be said that there were “only” 28 maternal deaths per 100,000 births in the U.S. but that is three times that of Canada and increases such as ours, according to the New York Times article “are extremely rare among rich countries.” Again, how can this be?

Some of the main causes are apparently heart problems and other chronic medical conditions like diabetes. And here’s what caught my eye, “Researchers have theorized that an increase in obesity — particularly among poor black women, who have much higher rates of maternal mortality than whites –– may be contributing to the problem.” (today’s Times article).

And why is obesity more of a problem “among poor black women?” Because of the cheap, non-nutritious fast food many of them are forced to eat and serve because that’s all they can afford. Many of these women are likely single moms, working a job or two (or perhaps receiving some kind of assistance to make ends meet) to keep food on their families’ tables. Raising several kids and working long hours hardly provides the time to prepare and serve nutritious meals. So? Fast food.

It is also likely that many of these families live in some kind of “food desert” where simply getting to a grocery store which might possibly sell fresh, natural foods is a virtual impossibility. But, of course, there’s likely to a McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken joint within easy walking distance to provide plenty of fat and bad cholesterol for both mother and child. This is just one more example of how systemic racism leads to generational poverty which in turn leads to health problems of all kinds.

Much attention is paid these days to the slaughter of young black men particularly in our nation’s inner cities either by gang violence or police misconduct. Much attention is also paid to the tragically high rates of abortion in some of these same places.

Why can’t we pay similar attention to the vicious effects of systemic racism and white privilege which continues to consign so many women and men of color to the “separate but unequal” society our nation continues to be?


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