Colorado Doctor Discusses Health Care Biases, Worrying Maternal Mortality Rates Among Black Women: “It’s Acknowledging They Exist”

Data shows that maternal mortality is horribly affecting women in the United States, especially black women. Black mothers are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic black women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Dr. Gabriel Whitmore, a UCHealth Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist, is hoping that through education, we can work to solve this problem.

“It’s so sad that in 2023, we’re still addressing these issues. It breaks my heart as a woman of color, and especially as a woman of color in OB-GYN. Now we call it Black Maternal. They are calling it a health crisis,” he said. CBS News Colorado’s Mikalaya White.

Dr. Gabriel Whitmore, a UCHealth Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist


As a minimally invasive surgeon, Whitmore sees it every day but says the crisis has only come to light in the last few years. “I think it’s multifactorial. There are layers and layers of historical context related to how we view health care and our patients.”

Health inequities, maltreatment, and underlying chronic conditions all contribute to the problem. Whitmore also points to the lack of standardization in health care.

“During pregnancy, there’s a lot of variability. Here in Colorado, you have private practice, county hospitals, academic centers, then you think about the care provided nationally and it varies. . . . And then the other side that we can’t ignore is that there are implicit biases that exist that perpetuate our systemic and structural racism,” Whitmore said. “We need to open a line of communication with our patients so we can provide the best care and they can get the best outcomes.”

She says the solution is working to remove barriers.

“It’s an acknowledgment that they exist, that these things happen. There are things working against us, so I think the biggest thing is to have an open conversation with the providers. It’s really that conversation. Is, like, why are we worried about my blood pressure? How can it affect me and my pregnancy? And providers, talking about the associated risks, how do we help our patients? Do you have enough mental and physical support at home? Do you have transportation? Patients are excused for saying they are not. Not coming to their appointments. But why? Do they not have access to transportation? Do they have childcare concerns that we’re not considering?”

UCHealth staff ask these questions of their patients, Whitmore says. “We’re also trying to create a model where they’re not seeing so many different providers all the time, they have to retell their stories. That can create a system of mistrust, so we’re trying to minimize that.” So, they have a team of providers that will support them through their delivery.”

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