California DOJ finds implicit bias still impacting health of pregnant Black women

"Many Black moms aren't taken seriously when they communicate their pains, their discomfort to doctors."

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Tuesday, October 31, 2023
CA finds bias still impacting health of pregnant Black women
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California Dept. of Justice has found that racial bias among health care workers is impacting the mortality rate of pregnant Black women.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In a news conference, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the results of a new Department of Justice investigation. The investigation looks at implicit bias among health care workers in perinatal settings and shows the need for more progress.

"We need to listen to this data. It's screaming at us to do something," Bonta said.

It comes after the state legislature passed a bill back in 2019 requiring all health professionals to receive training to reduce racial biases.

According to recent data, Black women have maternal mortality rates far higher than any other racial group, and three to four times that of white women.

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"Many Black moms aren't taken seriously when they communicate their pains, their discomfort to doctors. And we know that those are biases, they're non-intentional biases that staff at hospitals hold," said Je Ton Carey.

Carey works with the Children's Council of San Francisco.

She says socioeconomic factors like a lack of investment, as well as systemic racism are two of the main reasons behind the high mortality rate for Black women.

And it doesn't just revolve around childbirth. Carey says the health care inequities also have an impact on millions of Black children.

"The development of social, emotional, kindergarten readiness, are all key components that are impacted by Black moms, Black families not having the necessary access to resources," Carey said.

MORE: Maternity care is getting harder and harder to access in the US, new report finds

The attorney general says that when the investigation began in August of 2021, less than 17% of hospitals up and down the state had begun training their employees.

Now, that number is above 80%.

"These are not suggestions. These are not recommendations or options. These are the law - they must be followed. We need deadlines, we need an enforcer and we need consequences," Bonta said.

Despite the progress, Bonta says more work needs to be done.

"Time is of the essence. When it comes to health care, bias can be the difference between life and death," Bonta said.

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