Tag Archives: racism

Finding fresh approaches to reporting
on the maternal mortality crisis

Photo by MART PRODUCTION via Pexels

The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. has doubled in the last 20 years, a recent analysis found. What’s more, the study showed that Black, Native American and Alaska Native mothers are much more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than their peers of other racial and ethnic groups.

While the population trends raise significant questions about access to obstetric and gynecological care available to U.S. mothers, the regional trends underscore just how common pregnancy-related deaths have become here and how widespread the problem is. 

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Before Tuskegee: An investigative project
just waiting to happen

Tuskegee syphilis study participant receiving shot

A Black man receives a shot as part of the federal government’s infamous 40-year Tuskegee Syphilis Study that left over 100 dead. Public domain photo

In July 1972, AP reporter Jean Heller exposed a 40-year federal experiment that left hundreds of Black men in rural Alabama with untreated syphilis for decades, even after a cure became widely available. Participants were left in the dark about their diagnoses and the purpose of the study.

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5 reports look at causes of health disparities in the U.S.

map showing redlining in Little Rock, Arkansas

This map of Little Rock, Ark. was issued by the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation. Historical records show that the red areas — which were rated as “hazardous” — were neighborhoods home to Black residents. According to population data lined to the map, Black Americans represented at least 30% of the population in some of those areas. Some worked in lumber plants, shops, and private homes as housekeepers, according to archival sources. Click the map for an interactive map showing how this practice, known as “redlining”, led to social vulnerability in those neighborhoods today.
Source: Robert K. Nelson and Edward L. Ayers, accessed May 10, 2023

Stories about health disparities — even ones about CDC statistics — need context about the social causes that contribute to them. Five academic reports about the history of laws and policies regulating key determinants of health offer those nuances. Critically, these reports expose how intentionally discriminatory legislation and regulation in housing, education, employment and other areas have influenced poor health outcomes in Americans of color — and may continue to for many years.

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Playwright puts racism in health care on the stage

Harrison David Rivers

“Weathering,” a play that premiered last fall, takes on a public health crisis. The story centers on the grief that women carry after having a stillbirth, how they cope with it and why. But it also addresses the link between pervasive racism in health care and the concerning maternal and infant mortality rates in Black women that are much higher than those in their white counterparts. 

Harrison David Rivers, the playwright, said he was inspired to write a play that addressed the troubling trends after reading an article about the pregnancy and childbirth experiences of a young Black woman that was written by journalist and author Linda Villarosa. The play was commissioned by Penumbra Theatre, a stage company based in an African American neighborhood in St. Paul, Minn. that was August Wilson’s home theater for several years.

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Legacy of Tuskegee and other medical racism lives on today

Photo by Elvert Barnes via Flickr.

In two previous posts, I discussed the history of the U.S. Public Health Service study at Tuskegee, 50 years after it was revealed to the nation. I also shared the perspectives of a Black epidemiologist and a Black HIV primary care physician on what the study’s legacy means now.

In this post, I share the perspectives of two Black psychiatrists and a Black colorectal surgeon on how the study at Tuskegee reverberates through Black communities today.

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