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Health outcomes vary drastically between pregnant Wisconsinites. A new project works to change that

Closing the disparity between Black and white pregnancies in Milwaukee.
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Pregnant Black people in Wisconsin face much higher risks than their white counterparts. Wisconsin health care professionals are working to reduce that.

Pregnant Black people in Wisconsin face much higher risks than their white counterparts. Black people are three times more likely to die in childbirth and post-pregnancy, and they face much higher rates of postpartum depression. A new project from the Wisconsin Medical Society, Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Nurses Associationis seeking to change that, by filling in gaps in coverage.

Dr. Wendy Molaska is part of this effort. She’s a family practice physician and the immediate past president of the Wisconsin Medical Society, and understands the task at hand.

"Unfortunately, in Wisconsin, we see a lot of health disparities. We do not see as good of outcomes in terms of our Black moms and babies — things like increased preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, low birth weight babies, preterm labor. These are all more common in our Black mothers throughout Wisconsin as opposed to a lot of our white mothers," she says.

There are multiple factors that contribute to these disparities. Molaska lists "access to health care, having good quality, easily accessible health care, mental health in terms of micro and macro aggressions that Black mothers face."

She continues, "Stress throughout pregnancies, they might not have as good social networks. Unfortunately, I've actually seen in clinics where Black patients are not taken as seriously as their white counterparts, perhaps by physicians. There's a lot of, I think, unconscious bias as well as conscious bias."

A new grant will allow for these issues to be addressed through a pilot program that tackles these disparities — especially focusing on overall care and mental health of Black mothers during and after pregnancy.

Molaska says, "This is collaborative effort between nurses, pharmacists ... even reaching out into the community to include other community workers and partners and doulas, whatever we can to try and reach out to our Black moms — make sure that they're getting the care that they need, make sure that they have access."

From making sure people are going to their prenatal appointments on time, to getting the labs and immunizations they need, this program takes a holistic look at the ways people access health care and how health care accesses them.

For example, Molaska says if someone doesn't pick up their prenatal vitamins, a pharmacist could flag that for follow-up.

As for potential limitations of the program, she says, "A lot of this comes down to some of it on the on the bigger aspects of educating our physicians, our nurses, our pharmacists, our entire health care team about the implicit and explicit biases that we all carry."


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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