Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Tyler Lowry, Franklin County Commissioners, 614/525-6630
Robin Ross, Franklin County Commissioners, 614/525-2392
The Franklin County commissioners are hosting a Maternal Mortality Symposium this evening to discuss the rise in preventable deaths among new mothers nationwide and in Central Ohio. Doors open for the event, which is free and open to the public, at 4:30 p.m. at COSI Columbus. The event will include a screening of the award-winning documentary, Aftershock, which follows the tragic cases of two young American women who died after giving birth. Following the movie, Commissioner Erica C. Crawley will be leading a discussion with local advocates and experts about what more can be done to stem the tide of maternal deaths.
“Infant and maternal mortality are absolute priorities for our community,” said Board of Commissioners President, John O’Grady. “It’s a matter of taking care of our most vulnerable residents, and it’s a matter of equity. We refuse to accept that a family’s health or the start that a mother and child get in this world should be determined by their race, zip code, or salary.”
In recent years, the maternal mortality rate is up nearly 60% across America, and the U. S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has determined that more than 80% of these deaths are from preventable causes. Even more troubling are the disparities experienced by various groups. The maternal mortality rate for Black women is more than twice that of White women, and women over 40 are dying at a rate that is seven times higher than that of younger mothers.
“America has some of the best medical care available in the world, however, it isn’t equally available,” said Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce. “So many of these instances of maternal mortality are from preventable causes, but most counties in the U.S. don’t have obstetric care or OB-GYN practitioners. This causes Black communities to lose obstetric units that used to exist within them.”
Earlier today, Commissioner Crawley participated in a Columbus Metropolitan Club luncheon discussion with Shawnee Benton Gibson, whose daughter is one of those profiled in the Aftershock documentary. Also included in the discussion were Jessica Roach and Dorian Wingard, of the reproductive justice organization, ROOTT, and Jatu Boikai, Nurse Manager for Maternity Services for Mount Carmel Health Systems.
“The reality of maternal mortality and morbidity is that it’s a nationwide health crisis that isn’t receiving the attention it deserves,” said Commissioner Crawley. “One life lost to preventable causes, is one too many. However, even more troubling are the disparities we find in the data with women of color dying at a much higher rate than our White counterparts. My willingness to discuss my own lived experiences at today’s CMC forum is an effort to save someone else, and I am looking forward to this evening’s discussion about tangible solutions that we can implement at the local level to change the trajectory of this crisis and save lives.”
The commissioners are dedicated to addressing the maternal mortality crisis and the inequities within, and have advocated in recent years for women’s health initiatives at the statehouse, as well as supporting Celebrate One, sponsoring a partnership between Franklin County Public Health and the reproductive justice organization, ROOTT, and making grants to support the African American Male Wellness Agency’s new doula program.