As we begin Women’s History Month, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. released his report on the “Black Maternal Mortality (BMM) Taskforce” today, highlighting the widespread disparities in healthcare access and outcomes that have long afflicted our borough, specifically in the soaring rate of maternal deaths. One of the most important outcomes of the BMM Taskforce is the formation of the Bronx Maternal Health Consortium. This will bring together representatives of all Bronx hospitals and maternal health providers in the borough to problem-solve, share best practices, and collaborate on improving outcomes for Bronx mothers.
Over the past several years, The Bronx, like the rest of the country, has seen the rate of maternal mortality – deaths before, during and after childbirth – rise at a rapid rate. The Bronx’s mortality rate is higher than New York State’s as a whole and the mortality rate for Black women is much higher than for women of other races.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately plagued our borough and has shined a light on many inequities when it comes to health,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “Black women have seen higher rates of maternal mortality than women of any other race in New York State, and with the launch of The Bronx Maternal Health Consortium, my office has taken a significant step to unite the top maternal health experts in The Bronx to strategically tackle the problem of maternal mortality in The Bronx, and eliminate the risks black women face.”
The “Black Maternal Mortality Report” also outlines several recommendations from healthcare and policy leaders that participated in the BMM Taskforce on combating the rise in maternal deaths. The recommendations include elevating maternal health as a public health priority with all Bronx elected officials, targeting racial bias, restoring federal funding to Bronx maternal health programs, expanding insurance coverage for childbirth (targeted advocacy for enhanced doula, pre-and postnatal services), addressing communication barriers between hospitals, adopting the “NYC Standards for Respectful Birth” and systematic patient education across all Bronx birth centers, and reinstating a forum for a borough-wide body of leaders, advocates and stakeholders as the Bronx Maternal Health Consortium.
“The work of the Taskforce is the first step in establishing a unified strategy to eliminate these needless deaths and will be continued by the work of The Bronx Maternal Health Consortium. Combatting these health and healthcare issues has been a priority since I first took office and tackling maternal mortality is one of the most important recent efforts on that front,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
“To fully achieve our goal in eradicating the high rates of Black Maternal Mortality, it will require transformative change to a system that has historically and disproportionately failed Black women,” said Deputy Bronx Borough President Marricka Scott-McFadden. “As we continue to work towards having a healthier Bronx, The Office of The Bronx Borough President and The Bronx Maternal Health Consortium will strive for a borough in which every mother and baby gets off to a healthy start.”
“By having community-based organizations and healthcare workers in the forefront of the taskforce, we are looking forward to producing real change informed by community members themselves. The trends we see in Black maternal health rates are far from incidental. They are the result of systematic violence and complacency in which we are all implicated. The Black Maternal Mortality Taskforce and consortium recognizes this and not only attempts to re-envision how we approach race and racism in Health care, but in all areas of life that impact Black parents,” said C Virginia Fields, MSW, President and CEO of The National Black Leadership Commission on Health.
“It’s so important that the Bronx Borough President’s office has convened this task force and helped provide the local infrastructure necessary to tackle the problem of black maternal mortality and morbidity in the Bronx. This has really allowed us to operationalize solutions with local knowledge and expertise. The reestablishment of the Bronx maternal health consortium will allow us to continue this important collaborative work,” said Nerys Benfield MD, MPH, Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Fellowship Director in Family Planning in the Ob-Gyn and Women’s Health Department, Montefiore.
“Under the leadership of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and his staff, the Bronx Taskforce on Black Maternal Mortality demonstrates that our borough continues its unique tradition of cooperation and collaboration in tackling its most severe health problems by bringing ALL the stakeholders together and identifying what needs to be done and how we can all work together. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we still came together to better address another tragic and over-looked epidemic that disproportionately affects women of color, i.e., Maternal Mortality and Morbidity,” said Dr. Hal Strelnick, Chair of The Board of Directors of The Bronx Health Link, and Associate Dean for Community Engagement at Albert Einstein COM.
“Maternal mortality is a critically important matter for all of us. In the Bronx we have seen an increase in Black maternal mortality higher than NYS. In order to address this issue on the local level it is imperative to involve local experts who are familiar with the communities and can develop solutions that will have the greatest chance of success for the community served. That is why the Bronx Black Maternal Mortality (BMM) task force is working to bring together these specialists and form the Bronx Maternal Health Consortium. This group will work to reduce Black maternal mortality in the Bronx. I am excited to be participating in this great effort,” said Dr. Lewis Marshall, Chief Medical Officer at H+H Lincoln.
“While it is shocking that the Black maternal mortality rate is higher in the Bronx than elsewhere in New York it is not surprising, especially when Bronx county has consistently ranked 62 out of 62 in the state in health outcomes and the factors contributing to those health outcomes,” said Charmaine Ruddock, MS – Director of Bronx Health REACH (Racial & Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) at the Institute for Family Health and Chair of the Board of Directors of the National REACH Coalition. “It is encouraging that, under the auspices of the Bronx Borough President, a Bronx Taskforce on Black Maternal Mortality has been convened. Bronx Health REACH eagerly awaits the broad implementation of the taskforce recommendations.”
The full report can be read here.