COVID-19 may increase maternal mortality disparities in U.S.

It’s likely that maternal mortality among Black women in the U.S.—already higher than among white women and women of other ethnic groups—will increase further during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Ana Langer of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In an August 24, 2020 interview on Instagram with NowThis correspondent Zinhle Essamuah, Langer, professor of the practice of public health and coordinator of the Women and Health Initiative, said that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Black women in the U.S. overall had a maternal mortality rate between 2.4 and 3 times higher than their white counterparts. That disparity is driven by socioeconomic factors such as where people work and live and access to health care, she said.

Data has already shown that COVID-19 magnifies existing health disparities, Langer said. “We have the evidence that shows that COVID in the U.S. is affecting communities of color much more than white communities,” she said. “We also know that maternal mortality is higher among Black women. So it’s the perfect storm.” While there’s not enough evidence yet to definitively demonstrate that COVID is leading to higher maternal mortality among Black women, “you can easily speculate that it’s going to happen,” Langer said.

Watch the NowThis interview: Black Maternal Mortality in the Era of COVID-19