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Black pregnant women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women, however, this is just one health problem All of Us looks to rectify.
NIH’s All of Us Research Program is gathering information from one million or more people across the U.S. to build one of the largest, most diverse health databases that researchers can use in their studies. By partnering with community organizations, All of Us aims to build trust with groups that have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research. As a result of that underrepresentation, groups like Black women are often left out of vital treatments and prevention strategies.
In an interview with The Black Wall Street Times, Dr. Randall Morgan, Founding Executive Director of the Cobb Institute, discussed the program’s unique challenges and intentions.
Dr. Morgan, an orthopedic surgeon, states “maternal health has been a significant health disparity for many years and the number of infant and fetal deaths are increasing in the Black community.” It’s a problem he and partners aren’t waiting to fix, but addressing now.
Yet, one of the largest barriers identified by Dr. Morgan is ubiquitous for many ills plaguing the Black community: Access.
When asked why these mortality numbers persist over time, Dr. Morgan replied, “I think it represents the structures of racism that exist in America today.” He continued, “in spite of good medicine and understanding of fetal mortality, we’re unable to provide access to proper care and education” for those who need it most.
Dr. Morgan stated decreasing infant mortality often depends upon how pregnant women are treated and implores Black pregnant women to participate in the research program for their individual benefit and those after them. Additionally, participants will directly benefit from the resources available through their comprehensive program.
While acknowledging that the Tuskeegee experiment and cases such as Henrietta Lacks would cause hesitation for African American participation in healthcare, Dr.Morgan states the rise in infant and maternal death rates will not decrease until our people are the ones who participate in research programs that routinely impact us most adversely.
Dr. Morgan reiterated that though these healthcare tragedies occurred, we need “guidelines for how we need to proceed for our own health benefit.”
“We can’t be scared to participate.”
“Many parts of our nations have underrepresented pockets of community support mechanisms.” Dr. Morgan continued, “it’s also going to require organization and support from hospitals across the country with strong community involvement.”
Dr, Morgan remains optimistic that those community-based efforts can work but acknowledges social determinants, racial disparities and language barriers will be a challenge in forging immediate change.
When asked about practical steps pregnant women can take to better their outcomes, Dr. Morgan emphasized education and consistent support. For example, having someone else present when visiting the doctor at all times due to the amount of information given and having someone retain the information with you can help the process. Dr. Morgan also stressed dieting for obese women prior to pregnancy, along with visiting the local public health department, which has tons of useful information for expecting mothers.
For best outcomes, pregnant women need prevention
Dr. Morgan mentioned the highest number of deaths are related to heart disease and result from high blood pressure. “Preeclampsia” usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal but could lead to infant or maternal death. Reviewing one’s blood pressure prior to being pregnant is vital, to check for diabetes and potentially alter a present diet to increase the likelihood of a successful pregnancy. According to Dr. Morgan, another major issue is that in many cases, pregnant women learn about pregnancy as they are going through the stages of pregnancy, which can tragically be too late.
Participants do not have to be pregnant women. They will be surveyed, offered genetic screenings, lab tests, and other services in the All of Us research program. Their data will later be utilized to implement necessary changes in the near future for, well, all of us. Additionally, the program is open