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Council seeks solutions to staggering Black maternal death rate

2018 data showed the city's maternal mortality rate is two times higher for Black women. The Women's Caucus recently held a webinar to discuss ideas.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville faces a staggering problem when it comes to maternal health. According to metro health data, the city has significant racial disparities in infant and maternal health outcomes.

According to data from 2018, 42.1 Black women died per 100,000 live births, compared to 17.2 white women per 100,000 live births. 

The numbers caught the eyes of the Metro Council Women's Caucus. Earlier this month, they hosted a webinar discussing the underlying issues and possible solutions. 

“It took a long time for us to get to the point that we have these types of health disparities that we do, so we won’t fix it overnight, but we can begin to take the steps to fix it today," Councilwoman Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-8) said. 

Chambers Armstrong said during the initial webinar, councilmembers and panelists from the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness discussed underlying issues like lack of access to care, lack of knowledge of resources and insufficient insurance.

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“A lot of people have realized this is a problem what they haven’t had is resources and a partnership from local government," Chambers Armstrong said. 

Damara Jenkins, Director of Midwifery at UofL Health, said the introduction of midwifery adds a personal touch and improves care. 

She also believes its crucial for Black women to have better access to Black providers.

“To your comfort and ability to share intimate parts of yourself, the ability to trust the care that you’re given," Jenkins said. 

Jenkins added she believes issues of care providers not properly caring for or listening to Black patients stems from systemic racism. 

“That’s really scary because how do you fix racism," she said. “If you’re fighting to get good care you need to find another provider. Those providers do exist.”

Meka Kpoh, founder of Black Birth Justice, agrees. She said Black women in care settings often feel their voices aren't trusted.

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“We are looked at as non-human at times, so for Black Birth Justice our goal is to rehumanize Black women," she said. 

Kpoh's group provides midwife and doula care, in addition to postpartum support, for families in Louisville. They focus on Black mothers, who may otherwise not have access to a Black care provider.

“Women in this community will do anything for their families," she said. “They are trying to create a team of people that is going to listen to them.”

Kpoh is studying to become a midwife, and said city and state leaders can help encourage Black women to join the profession by providing better access to financial aid. 

“Oftentimes those are the barriers that hinder Black women from getting those roles is financial support," she said. 

Kpoh also advocates for widespread access to paid maternity and paternity leave for all families. 

Those are the kinds of solutions Chambers Armstrong said Council could potentially work towards. 

“What can we invest in, how can we make sure we’re improving health in every neighborhood and zip code in our city," she said. 

Chambers Armstrong said the Women's Caucus will be hosting more webinars on other topics in the future. 

You can view the webinar from earlier this month here.

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