Health officials focus on black maternal struggles in Kansas

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Minority mothers in Kansas are nearly two times as likely to have a pregnancy-related death compared to white mothers.

It’s black maternal health week. Health officials are sharing data about what is happening in the state.

Yelly Coulibaly is a mother of a seven-month-old in Overland Park. She moved to the United States from Ivory Coast. After she did, she was surprised to see the racial disparity in maternal deaths.

“Coming here, we’re hoping for everything to be better quite honestly, so knowing especially healthcare with how much it costs and all that, it was quite shocking, to be honest, that things like that still happen today,” Coulibaly said.

She said her pregnancy went smoothly. But she is one of many people advocating to make sure people of all races have the best possible pregnancy results.

“Black mothers have outcomes that are not as good as white mothers, and if we don’t dig into that and share what we have learned specifically, it’s hard to get to the why and the how, which results in the change and the needed conversation,” said Rachel Sisson, director for the bureau of family health at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Income, amount of education, and where someone lives can impact a mother. Black women can experience more stress, can be more obese, and may find it hard to get quality healthcare.

Numbers show they are also less likely to have meant to get pregnant which can have an impact on newborns. Black children are more often put in less safe sleeping environments.

Officials said there needs to be education geared to getting black women informed, both for when they’re pregnant and as a new parent.

“What happens during a pregnancy impacts a birth outcome and what happens in infancy and the early childhood years impacts a person for the rest of their life,” Sisson said.

Coulibaly said it would benefit health experts to engage with black women.

“Information and then education, as far as being healthy and then having healthier habits could really help because most people are set in their habits and they don’t necessarily know the risks that come with it,” Coulibaly said. “Geared toward the black mothers, mothers-to-be, who then know that and are listened to.”

Supporters want to see all levels of government help get information to people, but also say mothers need to take the initiative to see a change in the numbers.

“It should be at every level that people really get involved, and the black mothers themselves should be involved in their own healthcare, they should be their own advocates,” Coulibaly said.

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