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March 28, 2023 – Black women in the United States experience an alarmingly high rate of pregnancy-related death. A new evidence-based, awareness-raising campaign, led by Dr. Shalon’s Maternal Action Project, Population Reference Bureau (PRB) and TANK Worldwide, launches today to draw attention to this public health crisis.
A custom version of the “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” lullaby honoring Dr. Shalon Irving, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who died of preventable complications three weeks after giving birth, will be introduced across radio and digital streaming services as part of the campaign.
The health disparities faced by U.S. Black women have reached a critical point. PRB reports that non-Hispanic Black women in the United States were 3.5 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than non-Hispanic white women in 2016 and 2017. In addition, Black women were five times more likely to die from postpartum cardiomyopathy, preeclampsia, and eclampsia and over two times more likely to die of hemorrhage or embolism.
New CDC data show a 40% spike in overall maternal deaths in 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an existing crisis. Most maternal deaths are preventable, PRB reports.
Ending Black maternal mortality in the United States will require a concerted effort to address the root causes of these health inequities, including systemic racism, lack of access to quality health care and socioeconomic barriers, research says.
The campaign aims to honor Dr. Shalon’s memory by picking up her cause to increase awareness of the Black maternal health crisis and develop and promote evidence-based strategies that improve health outcomes for Black birthing people and families.
Dr. Shalon stated, “I see inequity wherever it exists. I am not afraid to call it by name and work hard to eliminate it. I vow to create a better earth.”
“It is unacceptable that in the United States, a country with some of the best medical technology in the world, Black women are still dying at such high rates during pregnancy and childbirth,” said Wanda Irving, mother of Dr. Shalon and spokesperson for Dr. Shalon’s Maternal Action Project. “The same health inequities she fought so hard to eradicate took her life.”
“It is critical to continue to research and support evidence-based policies and practices that can shed light on these inequities and help inform decision-making and policy changes needed in our world today,” said Diana Elliott, Vice President of U.S. Programs at PRB.
PRB has released a new fact sheet highlighting the work of researchers examining Black maternal mortality and structural racism in the United States, including Dr. Marie Thoma of the University of Maryland and Dr. Paris “AJ” Adkins-Jackson of Columbia University. As the campaign continues, PRB will promote relevant data by launching additional resources through its website, newsletters, and social media channels.
To support the campaign, individuals and organizations are invited to share the song with the #LastLullabye hashtag on social media and donate via the website, MyLastLullaby.com. They can also share PRB’s fact sheet with the hashtags #LastLullabye and #blackmaternalhealth.
“Only with mass support can we maintain the conversation and push institutions and the government to create real change in the healthcare system,” added Jill Mastroianni, Chief Marketing Officer at TANK Worldwide.
For interviews with Wanda Irving, mother of Dr. Shalon, please contact Jill Mastroianni. For interviews with Diana Elliott of PRB, Dr. Marie Thoma of the University of Maryland, or Dr. Paris “AJ” Adkins-Jackson from Columbia University, please contact Paola Scommegna at PRB.
About Population Reference Bureau
PRB promotes and supports evidence-based policies, practices, and decision-making to improve the health and well-being of people throughout the world. To learn more, visit www.prb.org. Follow us on Twitter @PRBdata.
About TANK Worldwide
TANK WW is a creative advertising agency that uses their craft to have a positive impact on human lives within the health and wellness space. TANK WW specializes in developing creative campaigns that will drive brand awareness and behavior change while also addressing the most important issues facing our society today. TANK’s clients include some of the largest global pharmaceutical companies in the world as well as small start-ups with big ambitions. To learn more, visit https://tankww.com.
About Dr. Shalon’s Maternal Action Project
Dr. Shalon’s Maternal Action Project (DSMAP) is dedicated to increasing awareness of the Black maternal health crisis and developing and promoting evidence-based strategies that improve health outcomes for Black birthing people and families. To learn more visit https://drshalonsmap.org/.