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Health of Black mothers and babies in WV will be focus of meeting

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Health of Black mothers and babies in WV will be focus of meeting

Sep 27, 2023 | 5:55 am ET
By West Virginia Watch Staff
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Health of Black mothers and babies in WV will be focus of meeting
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A Black woman holding a newborn baby in a hospital bed. (Ariel Skelley/Image Bank/Getty Images)

West Virginia’s poor Black infant and maternal health outcomes will be the focus of a two-day meeting in Charleston next month.

The event, Empowering Black Infant and Maternal Health Progress in West Virginia, is scheduled for Oct. 15 and 16 in the  WVSSPA Conference Center, 1610 Washington St. East. 

The event will be hosted by the Black Infant and Maternal Health Working Group, which is made up of people representing Black by God, the Black Voter Impact Initiative, the Morgantown/Kingwood NAACP, Morgantown NOW, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, TEAM for WV Children, and others.

“We really want to raise this as a significant issue that needs to be addressed in West Virginia,” said Rhonda Rogombe, an analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy and a member of the Working Group. “So I think part of that is educating the public, educating lawmakers about it,  and … creating a space where people can share about this as part of the education piece.”

Rogombe said in learning about the issue, the group realized the most important voice to have is of those who have experienced mortality and morbidity in maternal and infant health care. 

Between 2017 and 2019, Black infants in West Virginia were almost two times as likely (12.3 deaths per 1,000 births) to die as white infants (6.5 per 1,000 births) during their first year of life, according to the March of Dimes. 

The number of preterm births in West Virginia was also highest for Black infants, at 17.6%, compared to 12.4% for white babies, according to 2019- 2021 data from the organization. 

Rogombe said more data collection could be a start toward helping improve health outcomes in the state.

West Virginia law currently does not allow the mortality review team to interview the family of an infant or mother who dies, which limits the scope of the information they collect, she said. 

“In response to that, we really wanted to create a space where people did have the opportunity to share their stories,” Rogombe said. 

The convening will include Black researchers, storytellers, health providers, and state policymakers. Panel discussions will include learning how to advocate for yourself in health care and in the Legislature.

“We want to educate people who are not well versed in this, or maybe didn’t have experience, but also lift up those who have, and provide folks with the resources for navigating this issue,” she said.

For more information or to register for the event, visit https://www.votervoice.net/WVPolicy/Surveys/9816/Respond