Black Maternal Health Week

Black infants in the United States are more than twice as likely to die than infants of other races. And unlike other high-risk communities, we have not identified specific socioeconomic factors or genetics we can point to as a culprit.

Most likely, it is caused by generations of systemic racism in America that has affected all Black women. Look no further than celebrity athlete Serena Williams, a Black woman who has achieved the power, money, and fame that few could imagine – yet she still nearly lost her life and her child’s life while giving birth.

In recognition of Black Maternal Health Week, I wanted to take a moment to discuss how we are addressing these unacceptable disparities through the Assuring Neonatal Kinship and Health (ANKH) Sisterhood.

“ANKH” is the ancient African symbol for “the key of life” and represents the hope every mother has for her new child and family. Women of the ANKH Sisterhood receive comprehensive healthcare services from members of our Women’s Health team who are also Black at health centers throughout the community. These services are supplemented by specialty programs for women who have unique needs related to their pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and behavioural health.

The ANKH Sisterhood is led by our Medical Director for Women’s Health, Dr. Nathan Allen, who strives to provide both medical interventions and address implicit bias in the healthcare community. Being treated by a care team that is informed and even looks like them is comforting to many of our African American clients.

The only criteria to be a part of the ANKH Sisterhood is for an expecting mother to identify as Black or African American and receive prenatal care from WellSpace Health. Each mother will have a tailored care program to include:

· Comprehensive women’s health and pregnancy care.

· Being partnered with a comprehensive perinatal health worker who will help assist the new mother through pregnancy and three months after the baby is born.

· Connections to other WellSpace Health programs where appropriate, including Birth and Beyond, Sweet Success, Health Education, and comprehensive behavioural health services.

· Culturally specific care including cervical length assessment ultrasounds which have been found to detect precursors of low birth weight and prematurity in births of Black babies.

· Lactation consultation.

· Pregnancy and parenting classes.

Thanks to the work of this team, we are saving lives. Birth weights are up. Mortality is low. In fact, our first 500 consecutive births of babies using this model were born as healthy as children from any other ethnic group. Statistically, that is a tremendous accomplishment for which we should all be proud.

If you know of a pregnant woman who may be a good fit for this program, please invite them to enroll in the program by contacting our women’s health department at (916) 392-2290.

Be well,