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There are ongoing conversations about the state of black maternal mortality in the United States, as the rate is dramatically high. A $6 million study from Temple University is trying to explore the problem and reduce black mortality by tackling heart disease. The study, which will take place over five years in Philadelphia, aims to reduce the death rate of black women during and after pregnancy.
“We have a unique opportunity with this study to help change the narrative of urban black people in Philadelphia,” said Saleemah McNeil, the study’s co-principal investigator.
McNeil is the program director of the Maternal Wellness Village, partnering with Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine on the study. The Maternal Wellness Village is a community of birth attendants such as doulas, therapists, lactation consultants, nurses and many others who provide support and services to the African Diaspora to help reduce maternal mortality black.
The partnership for the study will be funded by a $6 million grant from the DC-based Institute for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research and it will compare two different approaches to addressing heart disease risk factors. As for the structure of the study, black women from diverse backgrounds will help shape it. The research team includes faculty and staff from Temple’s Center for Urban Bioethics and the departments of Obstetrics and Reproductive Sciences, Cardiology, and Clinical Sciences, as well as colleagues from Drexel, Jefferson, and Duke.
So far, we know the study will recruit 432 patients from faculty doctors’ offices this month and examine their heart health. The reason is that half of black women have some form of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association, and black women are 60% more likely to have high blood pressure than white women.
The study will explore the relationship between cardiovascular risk and doula care. The researchers also plan to have ongoing text-based communication with black women giving birth to encourage healthy eating, physical activity, and self-monitoring of blood pressure at home.
“Perhaps there are unhealthy habits and coping mechanisms that [Black women] have grown,” said community advisory board Hanan Abdul-Hameed, a doula and mother.
Abdul-Hameed helped illuminate some of the questions that will be used in text-based communication with patients. “Did you move your body for 30 minutes today? is an example of one of these questions.
Switching women to healthy habits is a gradual process, she added, “You can’t cut it all out.”
Some study participants will receive seven to eight visits with a doula after childbirth to help them return to primary care.
According to the research team, the study wants to see if these additional forms of support lead to lower blood pressure, address social isolation and depression, and decrease experiences of racism and/or abuse in care. of maternity.
Additionally, as part of the study, all Temple University Hospital and medical staff will receive training to reduce patient experiences of racism or abuse.
This effort to reduce the black death rate is timely, given that the CDC tells us that the maternal mortality rate is three times higher among black women than among white women.
“No one should die, and the racial difference in the death rate is truly concerning,” said Sharon J. Herring, study co-principal investigator and director of the Katz School’s Maternal Health Equity Program. .
“Unfortunately, we know that health care in the United States is based on racist principles,” Herring said. “I wish that weren’t the case… These are very big systems to break.”