Five Tips for Talking About Black Maternal Health

by The Opportunity Agenda

Though welcoming a baby comes with moments of uncertainty for all mothers, for Black mothers, significant racial disparities in maternal health introduce unique and sometimes overwhelming stress and uncertainty. As portrayed in the documentary film, “Birthing Justice,” these disparities are a result of systemic racism, implicit biases in healthcare, and a lack of access to adequate medical services.

To help you craft conversations that improve the public’s understanding of Black maternal health, shift narratives, and lead to policy change, we put together the following messaging tips based on our “Birthing Justice” discussion guide:

1. Emphasize Systemic Inequities Over Individual Choices

It’s crucial to shift the focus away from individual lifestyle choices and toward systemic issues. Highlight how racial disparities in healthcare, such as higher levels of pregnancy complications among Black women, are, not personal behaviors.

For example, unjust labor laws that fail to provide paid time off to access healthcare can adversely impact Black moms. It’s important to note that navigating racism alone undermines the health and wellbeing of Black moms. Across education and class levels, and even decorated athletes, Black moms experience maternal health disparities at rates that outpace white mothers.

This reframing helps underline the necessity for systemic changes rather than placing undue responsibility on individual women.

2. Lead with Values and Use Data to Reinforce the Issue

Leading with values activates emotions and opens audience’s hearts and minds to the message. Data alone does not persuade, but it can be impactful in reinforcing the point you are trying to make. For example, stating that Black women are three to five times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts starkly highlights the severity of the issue. Combine these statistics with personal stories to humanize the data and make the numbers resonate on a personal level with the audience.

3. Amplify the Voices of Black Mothers and Healthcare Experts

Centering the voices of those directly affected can significantly impact public perception. Share stories and insights from Black mothers and healthcare professionals who face these challenges daily. These firsthand accounts can provide a powerful testimony to existing disparities and the urgent need for change.

4. Advocate for Evidence-Based Solutions and Community Actions

Discuss practical and proven solutions that can address these issues. For instance, the benefits of having Black doctors care for Black babies, which significantly reduces mortality rates, should be promoted as a vital step toward improving outcomes. Encourage the adoption of community-based health initiatives that have shown success, such as support for Black doulas and midwives.

5. Encourage Broad-Based Engagement and Dialogue

Craft messaging that invites a wide audience to participate in the conversation, including those who might not be directly affected. You can also create space for inclusive dialogues that address uncomfortable truths about race and reproductive health in ways that are respectful of both the pain and trauma audiences with direct experience with infant or maternal mortality may feel. Educating a broader audience helps build a coalition of advocates who can push for the necessary political and social reforms in solidarity with Black-led organizing.

However, be strategic in your communications. Research shows that people are more receptive to messages that align with their core values. Therefore, tailor your communications to resonate with those shared values.


Changing the narrative around Black maternal health involves more than just changing minds. It’s about catalyzing action towards equity in healthcare. By focusing on systemic inequities, leading conversations with shared values, amplifying the voices of Black mothers, and advocating for practical solutions, we can begin to dismantle the barriers that contribute to these disparities. This is not just a matter of health justice for Black moms but also of societal justice for all.


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