In the US, racial disparities within the healthcare system continue. African American women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. In a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it identified these deaths as preventable, and yet the number has continued to increase over time. For every 100,000 births, approximately thirteen white women die compared to roughly 40 black women. Where is the outrage? Where is the justice in all of this? Giving birth should be a time of celebration, but in the black community, there is a paralysing fear surrounding this natural process. So I’m asking, who will care for us?
Screen Shot spoke to Dr Anne Schuchat, deputy director of the CDC, who noted the resources to identify and close the racial divide are there, and while not every pregnancy-related death is preventable, more could still be done. So why isn’t more being done? About 13 states have implemented change with Perinatal Quality Collaboratives (PQCs) on a local level that could quite possibly serve as a guide to help alleviate this problem on a national scale. How many more of us must die before the remaining states begin to acknowledge this growing epidemic and implement change?
Many of the deaths come from a lack of access to proper healthcare, delayed or missed diagnosis and the care staff’s failure to recognise early warning signs. Dr Elliot Main, medical director of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, told Screen Shot that African American women have higher statistics in obesity and being overweight but “that’s not the driver,” he added in reference to high maternal mortality rates amongst black women. “It requires a level of attention but obesity and hypertension are not things one should die from,” Main said.
Celebrities such as Serena Williams and Beyonce detail their own pregnancy-related complications—proving that the system’s failures aren’t subject to just income and social status. Williams fell short of birth the day following her emergency C-Section, and with her known history of clotting, she immediately notified the nurses that she was in need of a CT scan and IV heparin. Chalking her request up to the pain meds she had been given, the staff instead performed an ultrasound. It wasn’t until after the ultrasound revealed nothing that her request to have a CT scan was met. This was only the beginning of what became a matter of life or death during Williams’ postpartum recovery.
“My body went through more than I knew it could,” shared Beyonce in the Netflix documentary Homecoming. “I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth. I had an extremely difficult pregnancy. I had high blood pressure. I developed toxemia, preeclampsia, and in the womb, one of my babies’ heartbeats paused a few times, so I needed to get an emergency C-section.” Though women like Beyonce and Williams have been blessed enough to triumph through their pregnancy-related issues, other women like 39-year-old Kyira Johnson, daughter-in-law of television’s Judge Hatchett, didn’t make it home to her family.
Immediately following the birth of her son Langston, Kyria’s blood pressure plummeted. Her heart was racing and she complained of abdominal pain. More than 10 hours had passed before she was taken back into surgery. That would be the last time her family would ever see her.
It is because of these exchanges that many women within the black community are returning to birthing centres, doulas and midwives. There is a level of care, awareness and consent that isn’t found within white institutions. Organisations like Loom were created to educate and empower the black woman circling periods to parenting. White supremacy has been alive and well for many years, and it will continue to infiltrate the various systems that are meant to protect all and not just some. Yet, until we address the ‘larger elephant’ in the room—that black bodies are not as valuable as white bodies—entities like the healthcare and criminal justice systems will continue to fail us, which, again, poses the question, who will care for us?
Anti-vaxxers, also known as people who are opposed to vaccination, typically a parent who refuses to vaccinate their child, must be stopped. The anti-vaccination movement, which continues to grow, is a main source of worry for scientists who are sure vaccines work, but it should also be one for the rest of us. Measles (among other diseases) is on the rise once again, and reviews found that there is a correlation between the two problems. Here’s what is wrong with anti-vaxxers and what needs to be done.
The anti-vaccination movement comes from the idea that there’s a connection between vaccination and autism, as well as other brain disorders. This idea rests upon no scientific evidence, but as you’ve probably realised by now, the same can be said about many other beliefs in our increasingly disbelieving world.
Measles is a disease more contagious than Tuberculosis or Ebola, yet it is easily preventable with a vaccine that barely costs anything. When measles was declared to be eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, everyone thought—rightly so—that it was thanks to vaccines. And yet here we are, in 2019, with parents knowingly withholding their children from something that could save them from potential brain damage and death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018 measles cases in the U.S. went up six-fold while they tripled across Europe.
The situation is so bad that even Trump, who only a year ago ‘flirted’ with notorious anti-vaxxers and repeatedly linked vaccinations to autism, declared that people “have to get their shots”. In other words, if even Trump takes these outbreaks seriously, this is not something to disregard. This entirely preventable emergency that started in March this year should be a lesson to everyone about how unfortunate a world without vaccines would be.
A few months after the outbreak, anti-vaxxers are still going strong, lowering herd immunity quickly. In the U.K., Prince Charles’ mission to save homeopathy is reenforcing the public’s distrust in medical science. How? By promoting homeopathy as a miracle remedy, one that hasn’t been provided by the NHS since 2017 and has been described by its chief executive Simon Stevens as “at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds”.
The anti-vaccination movement comes exactly from the growing public distrust of vaccines, but also in science, in the government, and in the pharmaceutical industry more broadly. So what can we do, really, apart from making vaccines mandatory for everyone? Tackling fake news and misinformation, especially fake medical news on social media, would be a first step.
In March 2016, even Robert De Niro dabbled in this affair by promoting the anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe and pushing for the film to be featured in the Tribeca Film Festival. A few days after, De Niro decided not to include the film, most likely realising the larger-scale impact that this could have on the country’s already declining health.
Lastly, it shouldn’t be forgotten that more people are involved in the whole vaccination drama and therefore should be held accountable. Health professionals have to take accountability or be made to do so in this matter as well. We need to ensure that doctors giving shots are equipped with concrete information and available to talk to those who have concerns, so that parents can feel like they’re making well-informed decisions.
Conspiracy theories are fine and should be left alone to thrive on Reddit as long as they’re not hurting people in the process. People that don’t make the effort to promote vaccination are unknowingly allowing anti-vaxxers to do their damage. Anti-vaxxers should be called out—by the government, by doctors, by you, me—so that putting kids’ vaccination ‘on hold’ becomes shocking and taboo again. It’s a matter of life and death.