What is Birth Equity? According to Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, it is the assurance of the conditions of optimal births for all people with a willingness to address racial and social inequities in a sustained effort.
This is an assurance that many, particularly Black women, have been denied. This is what The National Birth Equity Collaborative (NBEC) is fighting for.
NBEC was founded in 2015 with the commitment of the reduction of maternal mortality by improving systems and focusing on racial equity. National Birth Equity Collaborative is a 501(c)3 organization that optimizes safe and healthy births for all by reducing Black maternal and infant mortality through research, family centered collaboration and advocacy. Specializing in systems of maternal and infant health services, we are bringing together program improvement methods responding to maternal mortality that is embedded in a vision of long-term transformation of institutions.
NBECs founder and president, Dr. Crear-Perry, is a decorated OB-GYN who is using her experience in practice to advance racial equity in maternal and infant health systems. She previously served as the Director of Women and Children’s services at Jefferson Community Healthcare Center and Director of Clinical Services for the City of New Orleans Health Department, where she coordinated services for four facilities that provided maternal and child health care. She is working with several national organizations on their service delivery and equity considerations, including the National Center for Fatality Review. She has served in leadership of the National Medical Association Board of Directors for several years while forging a path for NBEC across the country.
NBEC not only works to provide policy change within public health, We provide a customized set of strategic racial equity training sessions covering how racism shows up in levels of power, leadership, and worldviews, and how to identify and apply this knowledge to dismantle the root causes of health inequities. NBEC provides a framework to advance health and birth equity in all aspects by intervening on interpersonal and institutional levels.
It is our mission at NBEC to create solutions that optimize Black maternal and infant health through training, research, policy advocacy and community-centered collaborations.
Now that we know what birth equity is, and what NBECs role is in regards to providing solutions, it is important that we address why birth equity matters.
Poor birth outcomes have a range of health effects. Preterm birth and low birthweight can have long-lasting impacts on babies’ health and wellbeing, affecting the brain, heart, lungs and other organs and systems, and may even cause death. Preterm births also impact parental mental health and are related to complications for maternal health. The stress associated with delivering a baby prematurely can result in anxiety and depression, and mothers who give birth preterm are more likely to do so again. Beyond these individual effects, racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes have consequences for families, communities, and society as a whole. Experts have calculated these consequences in various ways, sometimes talking in terms of medical costs and other times noting the toll of human suffering. The experts that FrameWorks interviewed repeatedly noted that preterm births result in $26 billion in costs each year. This figure reflects a variety of post-infancy costs associated with children who are born prematurely, including increased medical care and a greater need for special education services and other types of social services. Adverse health outcomes linked to preterm birth, in fact, have implications across the lifespan. Women who were born prematurely are at higher risk of experiencing reproductive health complications—such as giving birth to their own children prematurely—thus perpetuating a cycle of poor intergenerational health.
With the understanding of why birth equity matters, we have to acknowledge that Black women are suffering the most from these disparities. In fact, Black women are 3 - 4 x more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts.
Access to reproductive health care of all kinds depends heavily on where a person lives, how much money they make, and the extent to which discrimination impedes their ability to make and act on their reproductive decisions. Even with these indicators, Black women, regardless of residential location, financial and economic status are suffering.
This is why NBEC is and will continue to fight to ensure that equity is a priority for Black birthing people.