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Maternal morbidity higher in majority-Black neighborhoods, study finds

People who live in majority-Black neighborhoods have a higher likelihood for maternal health complications, according to a study released earlier this month (Source: “Majority-Black Neighborhoods See Maternal Health Disparities,” Patient Engagement HIT, April 13, 2021).

The new data from Penn Medicine, published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, found a 2.4% increase in maternal morbidity for every 10% increase in Black residents within a given neighborhood.

Previous data has shown that maternal morbidity, or any unexpected labor outcome with major long- or short-term consequences, have a disproportionate impact on Black women compared to white women. This health disparity exists even after controlling for factors such as education level and income, prompting many health equity experts to consider the role that structural racism and implicit bias can play in health outcomes.

“This study gives us a blueprint for addressing racial disparities in health care at the neighborhood and population-level,” said co-author Lisa Levine, MD, an assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Penn. “Investing in neighborhoods that have been historically segregated, lacked access to government services, and subjected to racism will help to improve not only severe maternal morbidity, but also a host of other health outcomes for patients.”