• View this clip from BIRTHING JUSTICE, a documentary film from Women in the Room Productions, supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Building Community Power to Advance Health Equity

Joining together to advance solutions to the Black maternal health crisis

We all deserve to have our voices respected and valued when giving birth. Policymakers, funders, and hospital administrators must learn new lessons by listening to those most impacted by this crisis. But listening alone won’t be sufficient—we must act together. When healthcare systems, community partners and parents collaborate on solutions, prioritizing evidence and weighing and respecting community voice, we will be better equipped to make lasting change for birth equity.

Birth justice-focused organizations are advancing policies and practices that address the impact of structural racism on maternal and infant health outcomes. Communities on the front lines of this crisis are advocating to increase the number of birth support people demonstrated to improve birth outcomes—and expand insurance coverage to include their care. These efforts are vital to reducing disparities.

Lastly, our policymakers must invest in making birth equity a reality in our country. Medicaid expansion, on the rise in some states, is associated with reduced rates of maternal death, particularly for Black women. In order to address the Black maternal health crisis, however, we must not only expand and enhance Medicaid coverage, but also ensure that providers receive adequate payment. Without both expanded Medicaid and fair reimbursement, Black women will not be able to access the healthcare they need.

There is additional action our policymakers can take, from providing families with a living wage and paid family and medical leave to access to quality and affordable childcare, safe, affordable housing and nutritious food. These combined solutions could dramatically improve equity in Black maternal and infant health. For every family to experience the joy of a healthy birth, they must be put into action.

We’re already seeing a powerful shift in awareness. Let’s continue to act on the evidence, listen and respond to the voices of those giving birth, celebrate Black excellence in healthcare professionals, advocates and birth workers, and change failed systems and policies so every expecting parent can envision a birth story as the loving, joyful and healthy experience it should be.

Visit birthingjustice.com to watch a documentary on how Black women are navigating pregnancy and working to improve maternal and infant health.>>

About the Authors

Allyson Felix is a retired Olympian and executive producer of Birthing Justice.

Elaine Batchlor, MD, MPH, is a physician and the chief executive officer of MLK Community Healthcare in South Los Angeles.