Session: Toward a Health Equity Narrative for Black Maternal Health and Well-Being (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

6 Toward a Health Equity Narrative for Black Maternal Health and Well-Being

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 1:30 PM-2:30 PM
Cluster: Black and African Diaspora Focused-Research
McClain Sampson, PhD, University of Houston, Reiko Boyd, PhD, University of Houston, Quenette Walton, PhD, University of Houston, Serwaa Omowale, MSW, University of Pittsburgh and Amittia Parker, LMSW, University of Kansas
Over two decades of health disparities research show stark differences in health issues among Black women in the United States as compared to non-Hispanic White women. Black women disproportionately bear the burden of health issues such as breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, pregnancy complications, birth outcomes, and severe maternal morbidity and mortality. Although much has been reported about racial disparities in health, relatively small gains have been made to close the gap. Most studies on maternal health investigate risks and stressors among Black mothers without considering their voices, strengths, and supports. Within studies, little attention has been given to the social and structural contexts that contribute to the adverse and persistent health outcomes experienced by Black women across socioeconomic backgrounds.

The content in this roundtable presents synergistic efforts related to the Social Work Grand Challenge: Close the Health Gap. Social workers are being challenged to eradicate racial disparities in health through a socially and environmentally oriented paradigm of health, versus a focus on individual health behaviors. In this roundtable presentation we will facilitate a dialogue about how social workers can use research to shift the narrative surrounding Black womens' health from one of disparities and deficits to one focused on health equity. Presenters will use their own research findings to demonstrate how this shift can occur through intentional research, policy and practice that centers the experiences of Black women within the context of their socio-cultural environment. Presenters will focus particular attention to 1) the intersecting identities Black women experience as mothers, employees and students and 2) the situational, cultural, and historical contexts of health for Black women. All presentations are woven together by using theory and person-centered research to suggest how social work researchers can promote equity. Drawing from their own work and from existing data, the first two presenters will argue that progress in eliminating health disparities cannot be made without addressing the root cause of racial disparities in health: structural racism. Using Black Feminist Theory and qualitative data, the third presenter will describe experiences of college-educated new mothers as they transitioned back to work to inform equitable policies for paid leave and health focused workplace environments. The fourth presenter will share findings from her qualitative study that explored Black mothers' perceptions of supports for their mental health and provide insight on supporting Black mothers through racially sensitive policy and practice interventions. Our final presenter draws upon intersectionality to intentionally situate the lives of middle-class Black mothers' experiences with depression and highlight how shifting the story from deficit-based to health equity can change the narrative for Black maternal health and well-being. By providing diverse examples we aim to increase attunement about how unchecked racism infiltrates social determinants of health, health care practices, and policies to produce negative cumulative effects for Black mothers. We aim to encourage conversations that move from merely describing the extent of disparities to focus on harnessing strengths and resources for solution building to promote equity in Black womens' health.

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