Population Health

Can Paid Maternity Leave Help Address Disparities in Maternal Mortality?

By Rada Dagher, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Program Director
Division of Scientific Programs
Clinical and Health Services Research
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Dr. Rada Dagher

Dr. Rada Dagher

Maternal mortality rates in the United States have reached an all-time high. While these rates have dropped globally in the last few decades1, in the United States, they have more than doubled between 1987 and 20152. The picture is even grimmer for racial and ethnic minority communities, where African American and American Indian/Alaska Native women have the highest maternal mortality rates of all racial/ethnic groups2.

While most of the discussions about the maternal mortality crisis focus on the physical causes of death, the relationship between maternal mental health and mortality rates is largely ignored. For example, postpartum depression leads the list of mental health conditions affecting new mothers, and women experiencing this disorder may have suicidal thoughts and thoughts of harming the baby3. The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic that is causing COVID-19 disease outbreaks is another factor to consider. Due to social distancing, women have much lower access to the usual support systems (e.g. family, doulas) that promote their mental health during the vulnerable period of transitioning into motherhood. Recently published data from China on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic suggests increased rates of postpartum depression4 among Chinese women. Moreover, a recent report from a convenience sample of U.S. mothers of children of ages 0-18 months, shows elevated depression (34.1%) and anxiety (34.6%) rates5. Yet, the currently proposed interventions to address maternal mortality do not consider approaches to prevent and/or treat postpartum depression. One such approach is providing paid leave for new mothers. Continue reading “Can Paid Maternity Leave Help Address Disparities in Maternal Mortality?”

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Racism and the Health of Every American

NIMHD Director's statement on racism and the health of every American
NIMHD Director's Statement

By Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

The past few weeks have been an extremely difficult time in the United States. George Floyd’s death was so painful to witness. Even more painful is the knowledge that he was only one in a long, long line of African American men and women who have been killed by police in America. It is a relentless, terrible history, and his death was yet another reminder of injustice in our lives. It is the same injustice that American Indians suffered in colonial times and the 19th century, losing their lands and being victimized by war. It is the same injustice that led to mass deportation of Mexican Americans—people born in the United States—in the 1930s. It is the same injustice that led to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. This is our history.

I have watched the protests—at times coupled with violence but mostly peaceful—and been heartened by the Americans of all races who have continued to show up, day after day, to say that Black lives matter and structural racism must end. This is a society that is proud to say that all are created equal, with liberty and justice for all, but the history of injustice is clear. People are not standing for it anymore. Continue reading “Racism and the Health of Every American”

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Rural Health is a Global Issue

By Priscah Mujuru, DrPH, MPH, RN, COHN-S
Scientific Program Officer, Community Health and Population Sciences
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Dr. Priscah Mujuru

Dr. Priscah Mujuru

Rural health to me, is a lived experience. I was born in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. In my village, when a pregnant woman couldn’t make it to the hospital, there were no gloves, clean working stations, or sanitized rooms to ensure safe childbirth. A female in labor would be aided in her delivery by other village women who used what they had: hot water, rags, old razors, and even twine made of tree bark to help with the delivery. We never thought we were poor, and in fact we were proud and happy of who we were.

I was fortunate that my father valued education and sent all his children, 6 girls and 4 boys, to primary and secondary schools. He felt that it did not matter if you were a boy or girl, man or woman, everyone should be given an opportunity to get an education. In a small village, to send so many children to school when there was work to be done, was very rare. Continue reading “Rural Health is a Global Issue”

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50 Years After Stonewall, Celebrating Progress and Striving for LGBTQ Health Equity

By Brian Mustanski, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing
Co-Director, Third Coast Center for AIDS Research
Co-Director, Center for Prevention Implementation Methodology
Professor, Department of Medical Social Sciences
Northwestern University
Member, National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Brian Mustanski

Dr. Brian Mustanski

In June 1969, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community led historic riots against discriminatory police raids of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. The Stonewall riots galvanized the LGBTQ community to come together in a nationwide movement in pursuit of equality.

Growing up as a young gay man in Minnesota, I had no knowledge of Stonewall. With the Internet still in its infancy, there were limited resources to learn about the LGBTQ community. I resorted to secretly reading my high school encyclopedia’s entry on “homosexuality,” which that edition still described as a psychiatric disorder. Media coverage of homosexuality was dominated by the emerging AIDS crisis. I often heard people say, “AIDS is God’s punishment.” With no access to alternative information, it was hard to reject these messages.

Years later, I began pursuing a career in science. My undergraduate faculty mentor warned me not to “come out,” as it could hurt my chances of graduate admission. Evidence is just emerging on how sexual and gender minority (SGM) people experience structural and interpersonal barriers to STEM careers.1 Continue reading “50 Years After Stonewall, Celebrating Progress and Striving for LGBTQ Health Equity”

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Addressing Social Needs and Structural Inequities to Reduce Health Disparities: A Call to Action for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

By Marshall H. Chin, M.D., M.P.H.
Richard Parrillo Family Professor of Healthcare Ethics in the Department of Medicine,
University of Chicago
Member, National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Marshall H. Chin

Dr. Marshall H. Chin

When I was a kid, every Saturday my parents would pack my older sister, younger brother, and me into the family station wagon, and we’d drive 40 minutes on Route 2 East from Boston’s western suburbs into Chinatown. There we gathered with aunts, uncles, and cousins in the home of my grandparents, immigrants from Toisan in southern China. The conversations were loud, the play was very lively, and the wonderful aromas of roast chicken, fried noodles, and sizzling stir-fried vegetables filled the air.

An impressionable young child, I watched intently as my uncles played poker, cigar smoke wafting into the nighttime air. They taught me how to play poker at the ripe old age of 8, and I filled in when one had to take a break for a hand or two. Most of my paternal uncles worked in the laundries. My mother’s side was noodles. My uncles were bright men, but the bamboo ceiling—basically, exclusion from good jobs—limited their opportunities. “I don’t have a Chinaman’s chance,” they’d say as they folded a losing hand of cards.1

Running around Chinatown with my cousins, I saw that my uncles weren’t the only ones whose opportunities were limited. Housing was crowded, and the streets were dirty and smelled of garbage. Years later, when I worked part-time at the Federally Qualified Health Center in Boston’s Chinatown, I cared for many non–English speaking immigrants with limited education. They faced uphill battles as they dealt with their chronic health conditions, paid medical bills without health insurance, and attempted to advance in society. Continue reading “Addressing Social Needs and Structural Inequities to Reduce Health Disparities: A Call to Action for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month”

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Quitting Tobacco Now: A Short Guide for Your New Year’s Resolution

Quit Now

By Kelvin Choi, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator
Division of Intramural Research, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Dr. Kelvin Choi, Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator Division of Intramural Research, NIMHD

Dr. Kelvin Choi

Happy New Year!

Many people make New Year’s resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle. If you use commercial tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco among others, quitting tobacco (or helping someone quit tobacco) may be on your list of New Year’s resolutions. Stopping tobacco use has many health benefits, including lower risks for many types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases (e.g., stroke, heart diseases), and longer life expectancy. However, changing behaviors is hard. Here is a short guide to help achieve your New Year’s resolution to quit tobacco products. Continue reading “Quitting Tobacco Now: A Short Guide for Your New Year’s Resolution”

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Breastfeeding Disparities in African American Women

shutterstock_153205190

By Regina Smith James, M.D.
Director, Clinical and Health Services Research
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Photo of Dr. Regina Smith James

Dr. Regina Smith James

Some say the best things in life are free…but are they really? Well, when it comes to providing our babies with the best nutrition ever, breastfeeding is not only economical, but it has positive health effects for both baby and mom. Did you know that breast milk is uniquely suited to your baby’s nutritional needs, with immunologic and anti-inflammatory properties? Yes, it’s true! And the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, with gradual introduction of solid foods after 6 months while continuing to breastfeed up to 1 year.

What are some of the health benefits of breastfeeding? Breast milk not only offers a nutritionally balanced meal, but some studies suggest that breastfeeding may even reduce the risk for certain allergic diseases, asthma, and obesity in your baby, as well as type 2 diabetes in moms. Also, breastfeeding creates a close bond between mother and child. And from a financial standpoint, breastfeeding is economical. The United States Breastfeeding Committee noted that families who followed optimal breastfeeding practices could save approximately $1,500 that would have gone toward infant formula in the first year alone. Imagine what you could do with those extra dollars!

Continue reading “Breastfeeding Disparities in African American Women”

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