2024 Equity Challenge Day 4: Navigating Black Maternal Health 

The health of a community is often reflected in the well-being of its mothers.


▶ LISTEN TO DAY 4 – 7:27

Content Warning: Please note that today’s material has themes and examples of traumatic birth experiences and loss during childbirth, especially for Black women and babies. Please take care of yourself as you go through today’s email. If you need free and confidential support, please contact the National Crisis Hotline by texting HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime, about any type of crisis.

Today, we confront the dire crisis of Black Maternal Health, recognizing its profound impact on communities. Alarming disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes underscore the urgent need for awareness and systemic change. This challenge day will delve into historical conditions, systemic issues, collective action opportunities, and recent advocacy developments in Black Maternal Health.

From infancy through high school, children’s educational outcomes are dependent on the quality of their learning experience. Inequities in education start early and have lifelong impacts on children and communities.  This opportunity gap is not due to individual actions but is profoundly shaped by social and economic conditions and systems. Quality early childhood education has been shown to have a significant positive effect on future success because brain circuits are actively developing during that period. In fact, 85% of the brain’s development happens before a child enters kindergarten.

The urgency is evident—according to the March of Dimes, almost every measure of pregnant women’s and infants’ health in the U.S. is worsening. Black women face a disproportionately higher risk of dying from pregnancy-related issues than their white counterparts. In Michigan, Black women were 2.8 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes in 2015-19 than white women (Detroit Free Press).

The crisis in Black Maternal Health is rooted in historical injustices and systemic failures. Black midwives’ roles were undermined throughout history, leading to ongoing disparities. These issues intersect with reproductive justice, which ensures everyone has access to safe pregnancies and childbirth. Black women face discrimination in healthcare, limiting their access to quality care and increasing maternal mortality rates (National Library of Medicine). Addressing these barriers enables us to improve Black Maternal Health and promote reproductive justice for all.

Reproductive justice is crucial for understanding and tackling disparities in Black Maternal Health. Advocating for equitable access to reproductive healthcare ensures that everyone, regardless of race or socio-economic status, experiences safe pregnancies and childbirths (National Partnership for Women and Families).

From the article, “5 Black Women on the Frontlines of Reproductive Rights,” doulas are recognized as a vital role in contemporary maternal care. As the reproductive justice movement marks its 30th anniversary, Black women remain at the forefront, championing equitable reproductive rights.

Some of the Black women leading this work include:

  • Dr. Regina Davis Moss who is contributing to a holistic understanding of Black women’s reproductive health.
  • Nourbese Flint‘s presidency at All* Above All , a women-of-color led effort launched in 2013, advocates for legislation breaking down barriers to reproductive health.

These developments highlight resilience, determination, and progress within the Black Maternal Health advocacy landscape. Reflecting on these changes, it’s clear the fight for equitable reproductive rights extends beyond legal protections, envisioning liberation, and dismantling systems of oppression.

For more history and personal stories on Black Maternal Health, please see Day 8 “Vital Signs: Inequity in Black Maternal Health” from our 2023 21-Day Equity Challenge.






  • If you are looking to take action on this urgent issue, no matter which US state you live in, you can reach out to your legislators to share why this issue matters to you. You can look up your representative here and your senators here.
  • To learn more about organizations working in Black Maternal Health check out:
    • Birth Detroit – a member of United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s first Racial Equity Fund cohort in Southeastern Michigan
    • In Our Own Voice – National organization
    • SisterLove – Atlanta, Georgia, and Southeastern USA

Reflect And Share

  1. How does this information about early childhood and the cost of care compare with your own experiences as a parent or caregiver? If you are not a parent or caregiver, what does today’s information mean to you as a community member?
  2. When you think about the racialized impacts of racism, poverty, and trauma, what comes up for you? What haven’t you considered previously?
  3. What will you shift based on what you’ve learned today?


Start the conversation. Send the tweet. Share your story. Make the Facebook post. Sharing what you learn and experience with your family, friends, and co-workers is the first step toward allyship.

Join thousands in conversation by using hashtag #RiseToTheChallenge.