Justice in birth

March 30, 2017
Baby.

In Minnesota and across the United States, African American women and infants are at least twice as likely as white women and infants to die around the time of childbirth.

To address these inequities, University of Minnesota public health researchers Rachel Hardeman and Katy Kozhimannil have launched an innovative research project in partnership with Rebecca Polston, founder of Roots Community Birth Center—Minnesota’s first and only African American-owned birth center.

Receiving health care and social, emotional, and informational support during pregnancy is important for the health of mothers and their babies. For African American women, however, prenatal care often does little to counteract the effects of racism on women’s day-to-day experiences and their encounters with the health care system during pregnancy.

“The profound impact of racism on health can be seen right from the start of life,” says Hardeman. “We are excited to understand the potential benefits of a unique model of prenatal care that is grounded in culture and community.”

The team will explore culturally centered prenatal care at Roots Community Birth Center, testing and assessing potential improvements in practices for breastfeeding, family dynamics, stress reduction, and empowerment.

“Research can’t be done effectively without community voices,” says Hardeman. “We are bringing community partners directly into the project design and addressing urgent issues.”