Councilwoman Cindy Bass (8th District) introduced a resolution on Thursday to hold hearings on the increase in maternal mortality among Black women in Philadelphia.
Black women represented 75 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths in Philadelphia between 2010 and 2012. In the United States, Black women are up to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.
“The maternal mortality rate in Pennsylvania has doubled since the mid-1990s. I don’t understand why, in an age where I believed we were making strides in the medical field, it seems like we are regressing in this area,” Councilwoman Cindy Bass said.
“Philadelphia is called a City of ‘eds and meds,’ so we should be especially alarmed, and vigilant, about this disturbing and deadly trend,” Councilwoman Bass said.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, two of the leading causes of maternal death, are 60 percent more common and more severe in African-American women. Maternal mortality affects Black women more than any other group regardless of economic class, but those who live below the poverty line are faced with even more challenges.
Low-income African-American women often must navigate preexisting health disparities including barriers to health care access, finding culturally competent health practitioners and pervasive racial bias in the medical field. Studies have shown that Black patients are prescribed less pain medication and referred to medical specialists less often than their white counterparts with the same symptoms.
The Committee on Public Health and Human Services hearing will examine why maternal mortality among Black women has increased, why Black women are more likely to die in child birth than any other group, and what can be done to reverse this trend and protect mothers in Philadelphia.
“I have to acknowledge the years of work so many organizations have done around maternal health disparities including the Philadelphia Commission for Women, and the Maternity Care Coalition,” Councilwoman Bass, Chair of the Committee on Public Health, said. “I want to thank State Rep. Morgan Cephas for her leadership on this issue. I also want to thank so many of my Council colleagues, including Councilmembers Blondell Reynolds Brown and William Greenlee, for co-sponsoring this resolution. I look forward to finding solutions to this tragic phenomenon.”