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Researchers seek end to racial bias in maternal health

Researchers seek end to racial bias in maternal health

July 29, 2021 at 11:30am

The Children’s Trust has awarded FIU’s Center for Women’s and Gender Studies (CWGS) a five-year, $1.37 million grant to combat racial bias in maternal health.

The project, titled “The Black Mothers Care Plan: Reducing Racial Bias and Supporting Maternal and Infant Health (BCMP),” will be led by Okezi Otovo, CWGS Director Alexandra Cornelius, Vicki Burns and Andrea Queeley.

BMCP will bring together medical practitioners, FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine students, midwives, doulas and women who have gone through a maternal crises to address gaps in communication between the patient and the health care provider.

“Our project is specifically aimed at the racial and implicit bias of provider care that we know from research is on the those contributing factors to maternal health disparity,” Otovo said. “It’s the right time to find the resources to do what we can to make an intervention.”

According to a report published in 2019 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black, American Indian and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women – and this disparity increases with age.

Partners of the grant include The Gathering Place/Magnolia Birth House, which is the only community-based natural birthing center in Miami, and the Behavioral Science Research Institute to ensure data collection that will allow for useful application.

Over the next five years, BMCP will host implicit racial bias training workshops for medical professionals and students, put on annual programming in April in honor of Black Maternal Health week and lead two major black maternal health and wellness fairs, amongst other vital initiatives to Miami-Dade County and South Florida.

“The project is interdisciplinary in its approach. We want a network of people who understand better the solutions to the problem,” Cornelius said.

They hope to provide a list of do’s and don’ts for women regarding how to communicate well with medical practitioners and in turn for medical practitioners to be aware of patterns regarding miscommunication between the pregnant mothers and providers. 

Otovo, associate professor of History in the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, is the lead principal investigator on the grant and an affiliate faculty member in CWGS. In addition to serving as director of CWGS, Cornelius is a senior instructor in History and African and African Diaspora Studies. Burns is an assistant teaching professor for CWGS. And Queeley is an associate professor of Anthropology and African and African Diaspora Studies. She is also an affiliate faculty member in CWGS.