NCBH was regarded as a national model for its innovative and compassionate care practices (Photo By BSIP/UIG via Getty Images).
By Nan Strauss, Former Amnesty International USA Researcher
With just three days notice, the North Central Bronx Hospital (NCBH)’s Labor and Delivery service was shuttered after thirty-six years providing quality maternity care to 1500 women and babies a year. The award-winning midwife-led program at NCBH was regarded as a national model for its innovative and compassionate care practices, meeting the needs of at-risk women in an under-served community.
Eliminating NCBH’s successful program will reduce the quality of care and options available in this under-served community. The woman-centered, midwifery model of care practiced at NCHB is especially effective in addressing the health disparities faced by women of color and low-income women, but will no longer be an option in the area.
The closure will make it more difficult for low-income women to access care, increasing travel time and costs, and will end community-based care in the area. Surrounding hospitals that will be forced to absorb the additional 1500 births each year are already stretched thin.
Before you keep reading, let’s be clear: this blog is about the universal human right to the highest attainable standard of health, the package of services it takes to be well—and the ability to afford it. It’s also about the implications of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to stop providing grants to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for breast cancer screening. Because too often, women’s health falls victim to agendas that prevent women from exercising their human rights. It’s about the big picture.
According to Planned Parenthood, the vast majority of its services are the provision of information and education about health, well-being and sexuality; prevention of and response to gender-based violence; prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; and family planning counseling and supplies. These services are provided to both men and women, of all ages, of all income levels. They are part of basic health care.
As Amnesty International’s recent reports on maternal health have highlighted, discrimination in health care in the United States is severe and pervasive. But recently introduced legislation would help end discrimination and improve the quality of health care in the United States.
Last month, Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011 (HEAA). Passing this legislation will help eliminate disparities in access to health care and in health outcomes for communities of color. The HEAA ensures that a full range of culturally appropriate public health services are available and accessible to communities of color, and that services are available in the languages used by those communities. The bill also provides training opportunities for health care workers to better address particular health issues facing marginalized communities.
On the International Day of the Midwife, we have a guest post from Jennie Joseph, a midwife in Winter Garden Florida. Jennie is owner and clinical director of The Birth Place, a full-service midwifery clinic and birth center and developer of the JJ Way, a midwifery curriculum geared toward eliminating disparities. She is featured in Christy Turlington Burns’s documentary “No Woman No Cry” that we blogged about yesterday.
Talk is cheap! But right now talk is also becoming effective! When it comes to mothers and babies it appears that recent talk is finally leading to action. Thanks to social networking I am beginning to hear talk from ‘the grassroots’ about the state of maternal and infant health and the need for a drastic change. If we are ever going to be able to do better than ranking 50th in the world when it comes to maternal mortality, then let’s keep talking.
Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 8. Here at Amnesty, we’re honoring mothers by fighting for maternal health — sending Mother’s Day action cards to U.S. and international decision-makers, hosting events and more (sign up here).
49: The number of countriesthat have lower maternal mortality ratios than the US. Women in the US are more likely to die of pregnancy related complications than in 49 other countries, including nearly all European countries, Canada and several countries in Asia and the Middle East.
4 million: The number of women who give birth each year in the US. Childbirth related care is the most common reason for hospitalization in the US.
$98 billion: The total amount spent in the US each year on hospital bills related to childbirth. The average health care provider fees for maternal care are twice as high as any other country.
3 to 4x: African-American women are 3 to 4 times as likely to diefrom pregnancy-related causes as white women.
A woman holds a photograph of Tatia Oden French, who died in 2001 after an induced labor.
This year, Mom won’t be the only person receiving a Mother’s Day card.
Giving birth in the United States is more dangerous than in 49 other countries. In the last 24 hours, around the world, almost 1,000 women have died from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Maternal health is a human right — and there’s no better time than Mother’s Day to let Congress and other leaders around the world know that you care about the lives of women worldwide.
Join the fight for maternal health by requesting Mother’s Day action cards to send to U.S. and world decision-makers. Let us know how many cards you’d like by registering online (they come in sets of six).
These Mother’s Day cards aren’t destined for the shoebox or the refrigerator. Send them back to us and we’ll take them straight to your Members of Congress, urging them to support the Maternal Health Accountability Act, which would take vital steps to improve maternal health in the U.S. We’ll send other cards to leaders in Peru and Burkina Faso, urging them to improve their countries’ troubling maternal health records.
Although the United States spends $98 billion a year on health care (more than any other country), women in the US actually have a greater risk of dying from pregnancy-related complications than women in 49 countries.
Every day, 2 to 3 women in the United States die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. About 50% of these deaths could have been prevented with better access to quality maternal health care.
Amnesty International’s Lobby Week is coming up. During the first week of May, volunteers from across the country will meet with their Senators and Representatives to encourage them to take action to stop these preventable maternal deaths.
We need your help to ensure the elected officials who represent you have the facts and can help to pass strong legislation to reduce maternal mortality.
So stand up for human rights and maternal health by signing up to coordinateor join a delegation to meet your elected officials. With your visits you can help save lives.
Action for Human Rights. Hope for Humanity.