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Black Maternal & Infant Mortality: ‘The most vulnerable among us are the most directly affected by the policies.’

Provided by Evonnia Woods

Evonnia Woods is the Senior Outreach Producer for Reproaction, an advocacy organization focusing on reproductive justice.

According to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, Black women are four times more likely to die within one year of pregnancy than white women in Missouri.

She spoke about the way that intersectional issues – like transportation, poverty and racism – can contribute to Black maternal and infant mortality.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words.

Evoniana Woods: There's nowhere for people to go to birth their babies or get like gynecologists or like the reproductive health care that they need.

So, they have to travel like an hour to and an hour from, which presents some really dire situation for some people who may need emergency care in that way, or to have their health monitored while they're pregnant.

I think a lot of times we think it pregnancy is what women are born to do, what our bodies are designed to do, but it's such a complex thing.
There's so many ways that it can go wrong, and there's so many ways that people's health can be affected.

"We have the know. We have the knowledge. We have everything we need right now, as far as physical resources go, to prevent these deaths and that's the key word – prevent."
Evoniana Woods

So, there's that in the rural areas, [but] transportation is also an issue in urban areas. I know we really think about that in rural areas, but in St. Louis – it's also transportation, it's also poverty.

Racism plays a huge role in that in the way that the transportation system has been constructed – where the bus stops are, where the train stops are, and the proximity that people of color tend to live even in urban areas from hospitals and from healthcare facilities – like to receive quality health care, and then to come across physicians that are culturally aware and educated in the ways that they need to be.

So, all of that factors in.

We have the know. We have the knowledge. We have everything we need right now, as far as physical resources go, to prevent these deaths and that's the key word – prevent.

When we talk about maternal and infant mortality, nearly all the deaths are preventable, and we know that when we look to other countries, other industrialized countries in the world – our numbers far exceed theirs.

We are the wealthiest nation in the world, and we have the worst maternal and infant mortality rates. So, it's can't be the technology. It can't… it just can't be that because it's not happening everywhere. You know what I mean?

Like, we expect it to happen in poor countries, but here we are the wealthiest country – it's happening here. So, what is different here? What's happening here that isn't happening in Finland and isn't happening in the UK? You know, what I mean?

Like, what is it about the United States?

So, a big chunk of that is racism, and all the ways that it manifests into creating this situation, where the most vulnerable among us – the most marginalized among us – are the most directly affected by the policies.

By where the money goes, the funding to healthcare, the funding of transportation, and the funding to education, right?

How we think about sex, how we think about sex education. Like all things that seem separate, and how they're connected.

Rachel Schnelle is a senior journalism student studying Radio Convergence Reporting. She is an anchor and reporter for KBIA. She can be reached at rescm4@umsystem.edu
Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.