This Thursday, The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness (FFBWW), in partnership with the newly created Black Maternal Child Health Alliance, will present the first-ever Wisconsin Black Maternal & Child Health Summit.
The summit, lasting from 9 am to 3 pm, will feature a series of panels – the panelists of which can be found on the event’s Padlet – as well as a keynote from Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, MD, founder and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative.
“It is hosted by and for Black women who are mothers who are birthing people, birth workers, or our community leaders, reproductive justice advocates, and just everyday community Black women because our charge is really to join forces and bring Black women together to lead and shape this narrative for how we go forward in our state,” said Lisa Peyton-Caire, the CEO and President of FFBWW. “And of course Black women are already leading in the space but what we realize is a gap is a collective action, organizing ourselves into a coalition.”
Peyton-Caire also added the summit does not stop at just Dane County; practitioners and community leaders from all across Wisconsin from Milwaukee to Kenosha will be featured during the summit.
It is no secret that Wisconsin, as noted by Peyton-Caire, is “first and worst in the nation” when it comes to Black maternal and child health racial disparities. According to a report published by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2018, the rate of infant deaths for Black babies in Wisconsin is two to three times higher than white babies. Similarly, Black mothers in Wisconsin experience pregnancy-related maternal mortality at a rate five times higher than their white counterparts.
“Black women’s health and racial birth disparities is not simply a healthcare industry problem, it’s a community issue. It’s a multi-sector problem and the root causes are social and structural determinants of health,” Peyton-Caire said.
“We know that [Black] women that live in counties with greater levels of discrimination, are more likely to give birth pre-term,” said Dr. Tiffany Green, an assistant professor in the Departments of Population Health Sciences and Obstetrics & Gynecology at UW-Madison, and the co-chair of The Black Maternal & Child Health Alliance for Dane County. “We have all this evidence from the literature, we have testimonies from people’s lived experiences that all aligns with that. And I think that means that, given what we know about these early life determinants of health like poverty, and segregation and discrimination of all kinds, that we have to address those to address the health of Black people in general, not just the Black people who get pregnant.”
In 2018, the Dane County Health Council, made of various local health systems including UW Health, UPH Meriter Health, SSM Health, Group Health Cooperative, Public Health Medicine Dane County, Access Community Health, United Way of Dane County, and Madison Metropolitan School District, worked in partnership with FFBWW to create the Saving Our Babies report, which chronicles the rampant racial disparities in Black maternal and child health in Dane County. The report not only corroborated national findings regarding Wisconsin the highest as a place with some of the highest racial disparities in Black maternal and child health, but also provided a list of recommendations that charted steps to impart measurable change to the state of Black maternal and child health in Wisconsin.
Of the listed recommendations, two have been fully realized: first, to establish what Peyton-Caire calls “an independent body of Black women leaders representing many sectors, from health care to research, to social services to mental health, to education, to a broad spectrum of Black women leaders in our community.” Today that entity is known as the Summit co-host, The Black Maternal & Child Health Alliance for Dane County. The second implemented recommendation: to host a Black maternal and child health summit convened by Black women in order for those most affected by the disparities in Black maternal and child health, to come together in solidarity and work towards creating tangible solutions.
This summit comes on the heels of a shift in the national conversation to prioritize Black maternal and child health. Last week, the Biden-Harris administration recognized Black Maternal and Child Health Week, established by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and spans the week of April 11-17, annually. The Dane County Board of Supervisors also recently recognized Black Maternal and Child Health Week. Efforts have been made at the congressional level as well, such as the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020 proposed by Rep. Alma Adams, Rep. Lauren Underwood, and then-Senator Kamala Harris.
“I think it’s so critical, in a world where [Black women] constantly experience the stress of being Black … that we have a place to gather and be safe and this is a place where we can gather and be safe,” Green said. “Having that safety is really critical to generating creative and workable ideas. It’s hard, it’s hard to do that when you’re under constant stress and spaces that don’t welcome you.”
Registration for the event is free and can be found here. Registration deadline ends at 11:59 pm CDT tonight.