Medical school curricula, for example, include erroneous claims that black women’s nerve endings are “less sensitive” and require less anesthesia, and that black women’s blood clots faster than that of white women, leading to delayed treatment for dangerous hemorrhages, according to the report. . It also found that textbook illustrations of childbirth were presented on the pelvic anatomy of European women, which could lead to unnecessary interventions when non-white variability was deemed “abnormal or high-risk”.

“When a black woman dies during childbirth, whether in São Paulo, Bogotá or New York, it is often blamed on her lifestyle or an individual failure: she did not arrive in time to see the doctor or the nurse, she impoverished. life decisions, she was predisposed to certain medical conditions. And then the world moves on,” said Dr. Kanem.

The new report, she said, “categorically refutes that.”

The overall maternal mortality ratio of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Latin America, North America and the Caribbean increased by about 15 percent between 2016 and 2020, raising officials’ interest in possible contributing factors, including race. There are more than 200 million people of African descent in the Americas — one in four people in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one in seven in the United States and Canada.

Among countries that provide maternal mortality rates by race, the United States has the lowest death rate overall, but the widest racial disparities. Black women in the United States are three times more likely than white women to die during or shortly after childbirth. Those problems persist across income and education levels, as black women with college degrees are still 1.6 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women who did not finish high school.

UN officials have urged medical schools to reexamine their curricula and hospitals to strengthen policies on denial of care and patient abuse. Medical teams also need to consider innovative ways to help black women overcome structural barriers that make it difficult to get adequate prenatal care, officials said, such as lack of access to reliable transportation and insurance. The agency suggested partnerships with various black traditional healers and midwives to help navigate longstanding reservations.

The UN project also revealed a profound lack of surveillance data that likely prevented the problems from becoming known, it said. The report urged every country to improve its data collection efforts. Without a transparent look at the problem, the report said, it will be nearly impossible to design interventions to solve it.

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