Healthcare remains a privilege in the United States. Those with limited means and in rural areas in particular face numerous challenges accessing meaningful, effective healthcare. The same is true regardless of financial status and geography for people of color. The disparities in both treatment and outcome between white Americans and Americans of color - particularly Black Americans - have long been documented. COVID-19 made them even more apparent.
Take, for example, maternal health outcomes. Prior to the pandemic, the statistics were already beyond troubling. Compared to other high-income countries, the United States had and continues to have the highest maternal mortality rate, with Black women in the U.S. having a maternal mortality rate 3 times higher than that of white women.
Add in COVID-19.
Black women, regardless of maternal status, saw a 2.3 year decline in life expectancy in just the first 6 months of the pandemic. Though exact data is not available yet, experts know that the pandemic has further exacerbated the racial disparities in maternal mortality rates. “The pandemic came and just made these issues and a lot more, much, much worse,” Angel Aina, interim executive director for the Black Mamas Matter Alliance told Roll Call in 2020.
As we take this month to recognize the gains in Black Health and Wellness and the impact that Black individuals have had on health and healthcare in general, we must also remember how far this country has to go in providing fair, effective and equitable healthcare to all of its citizens, not just those who happen to be white.