Purpose of review: Healthcare disparities are health differences that adversely affect disadvantaged populations. In the United States, research shows that women of color, in particular Black and Hispanic women and their offspring, experience disproportionately higher mortality, severe maternal morbidity, and neonatal morbidity and mortality. This review highlights recent population health sciences and comparative effectiveness research that discuss racial and ethnic disparities in maternal and perinatal outcomes.
Recent findings: Epidemiological research confirms the presence of maternal and neonatal disparities in national and multistate database analysis. These disparities are associated with geographical variations, hospital characteristics and practice patterns, and patient demographics and comorbidities. Proposed solutions include expanded perinatal insurance coverage, increased maternal healthcare public funding, and quality improvement initiatives/efforts that promote healthcare protocols and practice standardization.
Summary: Obstetrical healthcare disparities are persistent, prevalent, and complex and are associated with systemic racism and social determinants of health. Some of the excess disparity gap can be explained through community-, hospital-, provider-, and patient-level factors. Providers and healthcare organizations should be mindful of these disparities and strive to promote healthcare justice and patient equity. Several solutions provide promise in closing this gap, but much effort remains.
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