Session: What's Race Got to Do with It? an Intersectional Examination of Racial and Economic Disparities in Maternal and Child Health (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

27 What's Race Got to Do with It? an Intersectional Examination of Racial and Economic Disparities in Maternal and Child Health

Thursday, January 16, 2020: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Independence BR B, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Gender (G)
Symposium Organizer:
Sarah Price, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University
Sarah Price, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University
Background and purpose: Social work research has elevated public awareness of mental health, reproductive health and persistent health disparities and birth outcomes for women of reproductive age. As our field produces and critically analyzes public health and social work research, we have the opportunity to build a framework for racial justice into the methodology we use to design, implement, discuss and disseminate our findings. Social work research has an opportunity, and perhaps even an imperative, to lead the field through employing intersectional and critically relevant approaches to research which meaningfully reduce racial and economic inequality in women's health and mental health during and around the time of pregnancy. This symposium considers several intersectional approaches which have been utilized to design, evaluate and/or interpret research on racial and economic disparities in women's reproductive health and opens a discussion for future dialogue on the intersections of race, socioeconomic status, and gender at this key point in the human lifespan.

Methods: The four papers in this symposium comprise an intersectional framework. The first paper uses a Black feminist approach to inform research into persistent disparities in birth outcomes for black women through development of measurement items which reflect the maternal psychological distress as uniquely experienced by women of color who experience systemic injustices in work, relationships and social settings. The second paper examines mental health service utilization by African American women with young children through an African-centered frame, allowing for more culturally relevant and systematic understandings of mental health and mental health service utilization among women who have often been considered at "high risk" for mental health symptoms and yet unlikely to use traditional mental health services. The third paper examines data on unintended pregnancy and contraceptive use of women from various racial and cultural groups and interrogates this data through a lens of Critical Race Theory in order to consider what these observed disparities offer for service enhancements which reduce stigma and enhance the delivery of racially just social work and reproductive health services. A final paper draws attention to the marginalized voices of young mothers in foster care, using a Black feminist lens to reveal structural barriers to equitable child welfare practice and policy.

Results: The papers in this symposium invite participants to consider intersectional and racially just approaches to social work research in maternal and child health in design, implementation, and dissemination of findings. The symposium's organizer and discussant will lead a focused conversation with symposium participants and will introduce cross-cutting take away messages from the papers of important concern for social work research integral to promoting socially just research in maternal and infant health and mental health.

Conclusions and Implications: This symposium will offer take home points from social work research demonstrating the impact of intersectional lenses on research which promotes racial justice among childbearing women. Women's reproductive health, as one example of a specific gender-based research area, offers an important springboard for conversations about emphasizing intersectionality rather than racially-comparative findings while addressing racial and economic inequality.

* noted as presenting author
A Black Feminist Approach to Measuring Maternal Psychological Distress
Serwaa S. Omowale, LMSW, University of Pittsburgh
Parenting with Precarity: Parenting Youth in Foster Care Navigate Placement Instability during the Transition to Parenthood
Kristen Ethier, MA, University of Chicago; Amy Dworsky, PhD, University of Chicago; Elissa Gitlow, MSW, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago
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