Mamas on Bedrest: ICTC Birth Survey Illuminates Health Disparities for Black Women and Infants

December 1st, 2011

ICTC is an infant mortality prevention, breastfeeding promotion and midwife training non profit organization.

This is the statement which The International Center for Traditional Childbearing uses to describe itself. Well, IMHO they are going to have to add maternal and infant health care advocates because ICTC has just completed a survey that clearly shows that disparities in health care delivery are in fact leading to poorer birth outcomes for African American women and infants. Their survey targeted African American women in the Portland, OR area, yet their results and proposed solutions will have far reaching national and potentially international implications for health care delivery for African American women and infants.

ICTC has issued a press release about their findings and that press release is printed in its entirety below. But for you who want a quick summary, here are the talking points:

  • Nearly two-thirds of African American women surveyed did not attend childbirth education classes prior to delivery.
  • Nearly one-third of women were concerned about their treatment during the birth of their baby.
  • The majority of women surveyed have government-paid health insurance coverage.
  • Over half of the women surveyed were single (not married or in a partnership) and thus without the type of support that having a partner provides.
  • Only 25% of Black women were still breastfeeding their babies at six months compared to over 60% for the Oregon population over all, and over 40% as the national average.

Disparities in health care delivery amongst minorities are nothing new. Unfortunately in this country, the disparities have been noted but little has been done to affect change. ICTC is leading the charge in demonstrating what the needs are for childbearing African American women and their babies and by providing  effective solutions with their traditional (African American culturally centered) midwifery and doula training.

Below is the press release, in its entirety, as released by the ICTC. Kudos to them for their work and let’s hope that this is only the beginning.

ICTC

PRESS RELEASE

November 29,  2011

P.O. Box 11923

Portland, Oregon  97211

503-460-9324

www.ictcmidwives.org


Black Birth Survey raises concerns about health disparities for Black women and infants

Portland, OR, November 29, 2011: The International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) is today releasing the results of the first Black Birth Survey completed by the nonprofit organization, which raises concerns about the birth experiences and healthcare of Black women in Oregon and their babies.  ICTC is presenting the survey results to a group of healthcare, public services and nonprofit organizations later today at a convening at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center .

Shafia Monroe, president and CEO of ICTC said,

“While these findings are preliminary and we need to complete more research on these issues, the survey in many ways verifies what we see and hear from Black women in Oregon’s communities. Many are in the public health care system, they don’t have access to or support to take birthing classes or maintain breastfeeding, they often give birth alone with no support besides hospital staff, and some expressed fear during their time in the hospital based on their treatment. These are issues that need to be exposed, explored and understood by the healthcare, public services and nonprofit sectors so that we can collectively work towards equity in the provision of healthcare services for pregnant and parenting Black women.”

The ICTC surveyed 245 Black women over the last year and received help from Portland State University to complete the numerical analysis. Major issues raised by the survey include

  • Nearly two-thirds of women did not attend birth education classes prior to delivery.
  • Nearly one-third of women were concerned about their treatment during the birth of their baby.
  • The majority of women surveyed have government-paid health insurance coverage.
  • Over half of the women surveyed were single (not married or in a partnership), and thus without the type of support that having a partner provides.
  • Only 25% of Black women were still breastfeeding their babies at six months, compared to over 60% for the Oregon population over all, and over 40% as the national average.

Monroe added,

“Because our work at ICTC relates to training women to be professional doulas and support women before, during and after birth, we need to have a deeper understanding of what’s working now in the healthcare and social services sectors and where the breakdowns in services, communications and outreach are occurring for Black women.”

A recent report on inequities by race/ethnicity from the Coalition of Communities of Color based in Portland, Oregon (Communities of Color in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile, 2010), showed that African American babies have an 11.4% rate for low birth weight (less than 5.5 lbs) in Multnomah County – which encompasses Portland and several other communities – compared to a rate of 5.9% for White babies, 5.6% for Hispanics, and 8.1% overall for all people of color. The same report showed that infant mortality rates (deaths per 1000 live births) were 8.6% for African Americans compared to 4.9% for Whites, 4.9% for Hispanics, and 7.3% overall for all people of color (Statistics source: Multnomah County Health Disparities Project, 2008).

Monroe noted that part of the follow up to the survey will be to continue ICTC’s and other organizations’ advocacy for House Bill 3311, signed into law this past legislative session, which directs the Oregon Health Authority to investigate how doulas can improve birth outcomes for women with disproportionately poor birth outcomes. The Bill was sponsored by Rep. Tina Kotek, who is a major advocate for underserved Oregonians and the availability of healthcare for all populations.

“We have seen birth outcomes for both the mother and baby improve when Black women have access to affordable doula services. This is the type of community-based, direct healthcare services that can lead to big changes and ultimately equity in how Black women are treated throughout the birth process,” said Monroe.

The International Center for Traditional Childbearing is an infant mortality prevention, breastfeeding promotion and midwife training non-profit organization. The ICTC mission is to increase the number of midwives, doulas, and healers of color; and to empower families in order to reduce maternal and infant mortality. Established in 1991 and headquartered in Portland, Oregon, ICTC has members and chapters around the globe to improve health outcomes.

The ICTC is operated entirely on memberships and donations. If you are in agreement with the organizations mission and want to help, consider becoming a member or making a financial contribution here.

Without healthy mamas, we won’t have healthy babies and as a result, we won’t have healthy socieites. We need to bring stories of health care delivery disparities to light so that changes can be made. If you have such a story, share it below. More importantly, get plugged in with us here at Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond. Subscribe to our RSS feed by clicking on the little orange circle in the upper right hand corner of our webpage. Follow us on Twitter (@mamasonbedrest) and on our Facebook page. Get involved with organizations like the ICTC. Alone we can do very little, together we can move mountains!!

Many are in the public health care system, they don’t have access to or support to take birthing classes or maintain breastfeeding, they often give birth alone with no support besides hospital staff, and some expressed fear during their time in the hospital based on their treatment. T

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