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Tarrant County health partners say better outcomes for parents and babies starts with collaboration

Dr. Haywood Brown presents research at North Texas Area Community Health Centers in Fort Worth on racial disparities and outcomes for maternal and infant health.
Simon Luna/Emily Mamone
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Black Texans giving birth are nearly twice as likely to die than their white counterparts, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. That's something Dr. Haywood Brown, who presented at North Texas Area Community Health Centers on Aug. 8, wants to change. He said it starts with advocacy from patients and providers. "Be aware of what your risk factors are, but not get scared by them," he said. "Have a support person who also understands those things."

The North Texas Area Community Health Centers in Fort Worth is bringing together community partners to address infant and maternal mortality rates in the county.

The North Texas Area Community Health Centers (NTACHC) in Fort Worth brought together community partners at an event in early August to address infant and maternal mortality rates in the county.

Tarrant County had the fourth-highest rate of infant mortality in the region in 2019, at 5.55 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

NTACHC CEO Gerrie Whitaker said addressing these issues starts with collaboration. Tarrant County Public Health, hospital leadership from Baylor, Scott & White All Saints Medical and JPS Health Network, and prenatal practitioners all gathered on Aug. 8 and 9 to hear presentations and discuss possible solutions.

“We’re all operating in siloes,” Whitaker said. “This a series to begin conversations so that we’re talking to each other on a regular basis.”

Dr. Haywood Brown, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology for University of South Florida Health, presented on how race, class and systemic issues like structural racism impact people’s pregnancy outcomes. Increased stress, lack of culturally competent providers and limited access to care close to home can all contribute to adverse experiences for patients of color.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Black people are “three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause” than their white counterparts; that number is closer to two times as likely in Texas.

“We know all the statistics,” Brown said. “We’ve got to get beyond the statistics and get into what we can do. Part of that is making sure that every [person] who is pregnant has access to quality prenatal care.”

Whitaker said the COVID-19 pandemic underlined the importance of community outreach.

“You gotta meet them where they are,” Whitaker said. “You gotta go to the barber shops, you gotta go to the beauty shops, to talk about why it’s important for you to get this COVID shot. So that has taught me a lot about how we reach out, not just to the patients, but to our colleagues.”

She said she hopes providers can come to a consensus on how to improve outcomes for parents and their babies in Tarrant County. North Texas Area Community Health Centers is planning on hosting future discussions on behavioral health in the coming months.

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at erivera@kera.org. You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.