A decade ago, black women in Texas were twice as likely as white women to die during pregnancy and childbirth. This statistic is a stark reminder of the systemic racism that has been embedded in the healthcare system for far too long. The Afiya Center, a reproductive rights organization run by blacks in North Texas, is working to address these disparities and provide better access to healthcare for black women. The lack of access to regular health insurance has had a devastating effect on the health of black women in Central Texas.
Until recently, women who gave birth with Medicaid in Texas lost their health insurance after two months. This has led to an increase in complications from obstetric bleeding among black women, as well as an increase in other health complications such as obesity and gestational diabetes. In response to this, Shawn Thierry, Democrat from Houston, has introduced a bill for the next legislative session that would require health care providers and medical students to receive training in cultural competencies and implicit biases. Rakhi Dimino, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Houston, has noted that discrimination often comes in subtle ways that may not be evident to the healthcare provider, but that have an enormous impact on the patient. Thierry is also preparing what he calls the “Momnibus”, a package of bills aimed at expanding access to health care, collecting better information and strengthening the process of reviewing maternal mortality.
Wilson said that these statistics show the impact of a health system that is biased against black women. It's a combination of declining access to health care, systemic racism, and the impact of “social determinants of health”: the conditions in which a person is born, lives, works and grows. In order to address these issues, it will be necessary to create a comprehensive health care system that addresses the needs of the community in all areas, from long before pregnancy. This will require more than just correcting labor and delivery practices; it will require a shift in attitudes towards black women and their healthcare needs. The Afiya Center is leading the way in providing better access to healthcare for black women. They are working with legislators like Shawn Thierry to create legislation that will help reduce disparities in healthcare access.
They are also working with medical professionals like Rakhi Dimino to ensure that healthcare providers are aware of implicit biases and cultural competencies. Finally, they are advocating for comprehensive healthcare systems that address the needs of all members of the community. The statistics surrounding black women's health in Central Texas are alarming. It is clear that systemic racism has had a devastating effect on their access to healthcare. However, with organizations like The Afiya Center leading the way, there is hope that these disparities can be addressed and reduced.