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Health News Roundup

Black pregnant women in the South face heightened risks, and more in this week’s roundup

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Being Black and pregnant in the Deep South can be a dangerous combination
Lauren Sausser, KFF Health News, Dec. 7
Black pregnant people and their infants face higher health risks during pregnancy and childbirth across the U.S. However, in the Deep South, infant mortality rates often resemble those in much poorer parts of the world. “We have a lot of work to do,” said Sarah Knox, senior director of policy and advocacy at the nonprofit Children’s Trust of South Carolina. “Unfortunately, our latest data shows we are moving in the wrong direction.” Research and preliminary data also show full or partial bans on abortion in the South will further jeopardize Black pregnant people and their babies.

New sickle cell gene therapies pose cost and access questions
Adriel Bettelheim, Axios, Dec.9
The Food and Drug Administration approved two gene therapies for sickle cell disease. The treatments could cost millions of dollars, raising questions about equity and access. About half of the people living with sickle cell are lower-income individuals on Medicaid. Most Americans living with the disease are Black, which also raises questions about how much buy-in there will be for the treatment given the historical distrust of new treatments from a community that has experienced discrimination in the medical system.

Boston’s mobile clinics offer model of health care that meets patients where they are
Anika Nayak, STAT News, Dec. 12
In Boston, the Mass General Brigham Community Care Van is an example of a larger movement of mobile clinics that grew during the COVID-19 pandemic. The clinic aims to address social determinants of health by screening for issues like housing instability or food insecurity and connecting patients to resources. It also addresses traditional medical concerns and is equipped to provide culturally competent care in multiple languages. Legislation set to take effect in 2024 will allow federally qualified health centers to use new grant dollars on mobile units, which could expand the use of these units.

As the nation battles a maternal health crisis, more women of color are choosing birth centers over hospitals
Nicquel Terry Ellis, CNN, Dec. 9
A small but growing number of women of color are choosing birth centers over traditional medical facilities for prenatal, childbirth, and postpartum care. According to data from the National Partnership for Women & Families, between 2019 and 2020 there was a 30% increase in Black women choosing to give birth in those settings. Birth centers are designed to provide families with the comfort of home and offer women more freedom and autonomy in their birth experience. The move away from traditional birth settings also comes at a time when maternity wards across the U.S. are closing.

Addressing Hartford’s childhood obesity disparities
Belén Dumont, CT Latino News, Dec. 13
In 2023, Hartford had one of the highest rates of obesity in the state. According to DataHaven, about 42% of the city’s Hispanic population and 39% of its Black population have been diagnosed with obesity compared to 28% of the white population. “Hartford doesn’t really have a grocery store in the entire city,” said Dr. Melissa Santos, division head of pediatric psychology and clinical director of the Pediatric Obesity Center at Connecticut Children’s. “If you don’t have transportation, how are you purchasing fresh fruits, fresh vegetables? How are you getting it back home in a safe way?” To try to address these disparities, organizations like the Hispanic Health Council give culturally informed nutrition education to the community.