Way more moms die having babies in the U.S. than in any other developed nation. Why?

The maternal death rate has dramatically decreased in recent decades worldwide. But in the U.S., it has risen more than 26%.

When people think of women dying during childbirth, they don't usually think of the United States. But according to a study published in 2016 in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the U.S. saw a 26.6% increase in pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths for women from 2000 to 2014. That's a sharp contrast to other developed nations — and even much of the developing world — where maternal death rates have plummeted.

The U.S. is the only developed country where maternal death rates have been rising. Photo via Jean-Sebastien Evrard/Getty Images.


The U.S. is one of only 13 countries where the maternal death rate is worse now than it was 25 years ago, according to journalist and professor Linda Villarosa, who has studied and written extensively about maternal mortality.

To put it bluntly: That's abysmal.

The U.S. is one of the world's wealthiest nations and spends the most on health care, which makes those statistics even worse.

As the only economically advanced nation not to guarantee health care to its citizens, perhaps it's not surprising that more moms die here than in other developed countries. Seems like a pretty simple equation really.

Image via Statista.

However, people in the U.S. spend an awful lot of money on health care to have that kind of outcome. In fact, Americans spend more per person than any other country — and not because they go to the doctor more. In the U.S., we use doctors less and are hospitalized less often than people in other countries yet we pay far more for our care. We pay more to birth babies here too — and yet the maternal outcomes are an embarrassment.

Maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are especially high for black women.

Part of why the maternal mortality rate is higher than expected is due to racial disparities. For example, black women in the U.S. are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. And that's not purely an economic issue; even wealthy black women have higher rates of maternal mortality than white women.

Infographic via Maternal Health Task Force.

Why is that? According to Villarosa, "an inescapable atmosphere of societal and systemic racism can create a kind of toxic physiological stress, resulting in conditions — including hypertension and pre-eclampsia — that lead directly to higher rates of infant and maternal death" for black women. Combine that with studies showing implicit racial bias in health care — such as dismissing legitimate concerns and symptoms voiced by black mothers — and it appears that much of the maternal mortality problem comes down to the effects of racism.

The good news: Some states have dramatically reversed those numbers.

While the statistics are depressing, there is hope — even within our current system. Some states have tackled this issue by forming Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs), which review every maternal death to determine cause and assess whether it could have been prevented. Data from these committees have shown that more than half of maternal deaths are preventable.

Image via Eric Feferburg/Getty Images.

California shows how successful MMRCs can be at saving lives. California formed its MMRC in 2006 when maternal deaths in the state were on the rise. As they discovered the most common, preventable reasons moms were dying, they created interventions to specifically address them. Since then, California has reduced its maternal mortality rate by more than 55% — at 4.5 per 100,000 live births, it is now far lower than the national average.

There's no reason the U.S. maternal mortality rate should keep climbing. While we can't save every mother's life, we can and should do all we can to try.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
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The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

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When it comes to the topic of race, we all have questions. And sometimes, it honestly can be embarrassing to ask perfectly well-intentioned questions lest someone accuse you of being ignorant, or worse, racist, for simply admitting you don't know the answer.

America has a complicated history with race. For as long as we've been a country, our culture, politics and commerce have been structured in a way to deny our nation's past crimes, minimize the structural and systemic racism that still exists and make the entire discussion one that most people would rather simply not have.

For example, have you ever wondered what's really behind the term Black Pride? Is it an uplifting phrase for the Black community or a divisive term? Most people instinctively put the term "White Pride" in a negative context. Is there such a thing as non-racist, racial pride for white people? And while we're at it, what about Asian people, Native Americans, and so on?

Yes, a lot of people raise these questions with bad intent. But if you've ever genuinely wanted an answer, either for yourself or so that you best know how to handle the question when talking to someone with racist views, writer/director Michael McWhorter put together a short, simple and irrefutable video clip explaining why "White Pride" isn't a real thing, why "Black Pride" is and all the little details in between.


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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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The subject of late-term abortions has been brought up repeatedly during this election season, with President Trump making the outrageous claim that Democrats are in favor of executing babies.

This message grossly misrepresents what late-term abortion actually is, as well as what pro-choice advocates are actually "in favor of." No one is in favor of someone having a specific medical procedure—that would require being involved in someone's individual medical care—but rather they are in favor of keeping the government out of decisions about specific medical procedures.

Pete Buttigieg, who has become a media surrogate for the Biden campaign—and quite an effective one at that—addressed this issue in a Fox News town hall when he was on the campaign trail himself. When Chris Wallace asked him directly about late-term abortions, Buttigieg answered Wallace's questions is the best way possible.

"Do you believe, at any point in pregnancy, whether it's at six weeks or eight weeks or 24 weeks or whenever, that there should be any limit on a woman's right to have an abortion?" Wallace asked.

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As the once-celebrated Information Age devolves into the hell-hole-ish Misinformation Age, many of us feel a desperate sense of despair. It's one thing to have diverse perspectives on issues; it's entirely another to have millions of people living in an alternate reality where up is down, left is right, and a global pandemic is a global hoax put on by a powerful cabal of Satanic, baby-eating, pedophile elites.

Watching a not-insignificant portion of your country fall prey to false—and sometimes flat out bonkers—narratives is disconcerting. Watching politicians and spokespeople spout those narratives on national television is downright terrifying.

Clearly, the U.S. is not the only country with politicians who pander to conspiracy theorists for their own gain, but not every country lets them get away with it. In a now-viral interview, New Zealand's Tova O'Brien spoke with one her country's fringe political party leaders and showed journalists exactly how to handle a misinformation peddler.

Her guest was Jami-Lee Ross, leader of the Advance New Zealand party, which failed to garner enough votes in the country's general election this weekend to enter parliament. The party, which got less than one percent of the vote, had spread misinformation about the coronavirus on social media, and Ross's co-leader, Billy Te Kahika, is a known conspiracy theorist.

But O'Brien came prepared to shut down that nonsense.

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