A non-profit health center with nine locations in Chicago neighborhoods is working to improve outcomes for pregnant Black women, who face higher morbidity and mortality rates than white women, according to the CDC.
Dr. Erica Taylor is an OB-GYN at Near North Health, a federally qualified Health Center.
The staff is on a mission to tackle the systemic issues that lead to health disparities among Black women.
“Black women are three-to-four times more likely to die as a result of childbirth. And 75% of those things are preventable. And so really in 2023, we should not be talking about women dying from things that are preventable,” Taylor said.
We asked her to explain the leading causes of death.
“The two top reasons would be postpartum hemorrhage, women that are actually bleeding secondary to complications of their pregnancy, and then postpartum preeclampsia, high blood pressure in pregnancy,” Taylor said.
Sandi Tenfelde, Ph.D., a women’s health nurse practitioner at Near North Health, said that’s why women need regular medical care long before pregnancy.
“Getting them in for annual exams and health promotion and disease prevention is really the first step at reducing this problem,” Tenfelde said.
Near North Health offers a “Better Birth Outcomes” program to help tackle the problem.
The BBO program offers patients a case manager to help navigate appointments and the healthcare system. They also offer home visits every trimester.
“When you actually have the opportunity to enter into their homes, I think we can gain so much more information and so that program has really, I think, helped to enlighten us in regards to how we can impact birth outcomes,” Taylor said.
Barbara Blount just had a baby girl, Zion, one month ago and received her prenatal care at Near North Health.
“I didn’t know I had the privilege of going to some providers or what to do, when they kind of walked me through the process,” Blount said.
Blount’s pregnancy became high risk when she was in a car accident while pregnant, but she says the staff helped her through it.
“Through coming here, I’ve learned a lot about myself as an African American woman, what I need and how to get there. I think that sometimes we just need a little direction on how to take care of ourselves the best, the best way,” said Blount.
Deidra Fletcher is due in July with her fourth baby, and the prenatal care for each pregnancy was done through Near North Health.
“I made it my business to do my due diligence and make sure I did my research and I found those that actually are interested in making sure that I am at my best,” Fletcher said.
“It makes a difference to me that they are actually helping to make sure that I stay educated. And that way both me and my child do have the best outcome,” Fletcher said.