CBS19: Roundtable focused on maternal health disparities, COVID-19 impacts


A recent roundtable event focused on Black maternal health issues and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger hosted the roundtable with maternal and community health professionals.

According to a release, they discussed the challenges maternal and community health care providers have been facing during the pandemic and the additional support they would like to see in a federal relief package.

Across Virginia, Black and Latino communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with Blacks succumbing to the virus at a rate nine percent higher than what would be considered typical for their percentage of the total population.

The release says many new cases in Central Virginia appear to be occurring in minority communities, with Latinos accounting for 38 percent of all new cases in the Rappahannock Health District, for example.

Regarding maternal and infant mortality, Black communities across the country have long seen disparities, with the infant mortality rate for babies born to Black mothers being more than 2.3 times higher than of babies born to white women.

Black women also have a higher maternal mortality rate, at more than 2.5 times higher than that of white women.

“Minority communities in Virginia are facing twin health crises, the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19, and the longstanding and horrific disparity in maternal and infant health. [This] roundtable was a valuable opportunity to hear directly from the health providers who are fighting these battles on the ground in our communities,” said Spanberger. “Americans pay more for health care than almost anywhere else in the world, but we have the unique and terrible distinction of being a developed country where maternal mortality rates are actually getting worse, not better. No American mother should have to fear for her life or her child’s life because of her race. As a member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, I’m working in the U.S. House to close the gap in maternal health outcomes once and for all. I’m also deeply concerned about the disproportionate numbers of infection, hospitalization, and death that we are seeing among minority communities during this pandemic.”

The roundtable included experts from the Virginia Midwives Alliance, Birth in Color RVA, Urban Baby Beginning, Virginia Rural Health Association, Times Up Now, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.

The release says the discussion also covered strategies for ensuring that minority communities can take advantage of any future vaccines at a high rate, what can be done to recruit and retain a more diverse health care workforce, and what governments can do to support care for pregnant women at the state and federal level.

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