September 20, 2022
Public Health Media
LA County Reports Significant Differences by Race in Pregnancy Related Deaths, Similar to CDC Findings
A CDC report published on Monday, September 19th used U.S. data from 2017-2019 to highlight striking inequality in maternal deaths. Pregnancy-related deaths, defined as deaths related to pregnancy occurring within a year of birth, were determined to reflect disparate causes by race/ethnicity. Additionally, 4 of every 5 deaths were found to be preventable.
The CDC’s data are national, but the pattern they reveal applies in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health monitors maternal mortality using 5-year averages, so that small year-to-year shifts in this relatively uncommon outcome don’t obscure the pattern of deaths. As the graph shows, giving birth while Black in Los Angeles County increases the risk of maternal death approximately 3-fold. Tragically, this inequality aligns with data from across California and the nation.
The graph does demonstrate a marked decline in the Black maternal death rate over time, but this still leaves us with a large birth equity gap between Black and other birthing people across the County.
Why is this? The CDC study reports that about 80% of maternal deaths are preventable. Current science indicates that prevention means looking at inequality not only in health care, but also in every domain of social experience. Racism in society has resulted in inadequate access to resources that support health and excessive exposure to social stress, due to discrimination.
In response, Los Angeles County has marshalled an unprecedented coalition of county agencies, community partners, medical allies, and philanthropic funders to eradicate birth outcome inequality. Through the African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) Prevention Initiative, the Department of Public Health – with its partners – has designed a multifaceted agenda. AAIMM strategies include:
- Taking on root causes of birth inequality – promoting income equity and challenging racism in health care and beyond;
- Supporting Black families across birth and parenting experiences – doula care, fatherhood support, home visiting; and
- Promoting optimal medical care – anti-racism training for practitioners, modeling quality care through a Black Maternal Health Center of Excellence (at Charles Drew University).
To learn more about AAIMM, visit www.blackinfantsandfamilies.org.