Maternal health is front and center at historic White House meeting
To mark Black Maternal Health Week, Vice President Kamala Harris announced two new actions to make childbirth and postpartum care more accessible.
White supremacy is so embedded into the fabric of America that no level of upward mobility can fully rescue the communities it marginalizes from serious harm.
Take Serena Williams, for instance.
The tennis star, worth an estimated $250 million, shares in common with other Black women across the economic spectrum the horrifying distinction of a near-death child-birthing experience.
“You'll understand that as it relates to Black women, it has nothing to do with her education or her income level,” Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday said during a private fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee. “Remember Serena? It has to do with racial bias in the healthcare delivery system.”
Earlier in the day, midway through Black Maternal Health Week, Harris convened the first-ever meeting with cabinet secretaries and agency leaders to discuss the administration’s approach to maternal mortality and morbidity.
The White House also announced that it is working with 11 states and DC to extend postpartum coverage for a full year after pregnancy from two months. Additionally, the administration has proposed a “birthing-friendly” hospital designation to help consumers in choosing hospitals that have demonstrated a commitment to maternal health.
“New mothers need health coverage to recover from birth and babies need it to get off to a good start,” Monifa Bandele, chief strategy officer of MomsRising, a network of people on a mission to build a more family-friendly America, said in a statement to Supercreator. “Taking away coverage a few months after giving birth creates avoidable problems that can undermine good health, so we are very pleased to see the administration pushing for 12 months of coverage in every state.”
Bandele added that “birthing-friendly” can help end the disparities that make giving birth so dangerous for Black and Brown moms in the US and that the new actions signal the administration’s recognition of the urgent need to solve our country’s maternal health crisis.
“We need all hands on deck to make pregnancy and child birth safe for all women in this country and convening the cabinet to address the problem is a terrific step.”
Approximately 720,000 people would benefit if all states were to adopt the administration’s new option to extend postpartum coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Insurance Program for a full year, according to estimates from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The birthing-friendly designation would be awarded to hospitals that demonstrate participation in maternity care quality improvement collaboratives and implemented best practices that advance health care quality, safety, and equity for pregnant and postpartum patients.
The White House said data for the designation will be submitted for the first time in May 2022 and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will post data for October to December 2021 this fall. Criteria for the designation may be expanded in the future.
Wednesday’s meeting follows the first-ever White House Maternal Day of Action last December. During the event, the vice president issued a nationwide call to action to federal agencies, businesses and non-profits to join together to solve this unnecessary crisis.
“This challenge is urgent. And it is important. And it will take all of us,” Harris said at the time. “We cannot be a society that is losing mothers.”
As I reported at the time:
America’s maternal mortality rates are among the worst in the developed world. In 2018, 17.4 pregnant people died per 100,000 live births in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This figure spiked to 20.1 deaths per 100,000 live births the following year, according to a different CDC data set. In 2019, more women were identified as having died of maternal causes in the US than in 2018.
This crisis is especially harmful to Black women and Native American women — regardless of their income or education levels — and women in rural communities. Black women are more than three times as likely to die from from pregnancy-related complications as white women. Native American women are twice as likely. Meanwhile, pregnant women who live in rural communities die before, during or following birth at a clip that’s 60 percent higher than women who live in urban communities. And for the tens of thousands of pregnant people who live through childbirth, they’ll do so with life-altering health challenges, such as severe heart issues, hemorrhages, seizures and blood infections.
“I was with the president this morning in the Oval Office talking about many matters and many issues,” Harris said on Tuesday at the top of the meeting. “And he said, ‘Hey, the Cabinet is coming together today on this issue. This is good stuff.’”
There’s still room for improvement though.
The US is the only high-income country to not offer federal paid family leave. (The benefit is guaranteed in 178 countries.)
Here’s what I wrote in January 2021:
In 2014, the Institute of Women's Policy Research published a study that found paid family leave offers economic security and gives employees the peace of mind that they're safe from losing their job. The study cited research that shows paid family leave has a positive effect on infant and maternal health, reducing rates of infant mortality and stress and depression for mothers. (The United States has the highest infant mortality rate out of 28 wealthy countries in the world, coming in at 6.1 for every 1,000 births.) And it helps employers because it can increase employee morale, productivity, and labor force attachment once new parents (particularly mothers) return to work. But according to Healthline, 40 percent of women don’t qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which grants 12 weeks of protected unpaid job leave at the federal level and only 12 percent of women in the private sector have access to any sort of paid maternity leave. (One in four women are forced to return to work within two weeks of giving birth to support their families.)
Momsrising’s Bandele told me that Congress could build on the administration’s actions on Wednesday by passing the “momnibus,” a series of standalone bills introduced by members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus.
The White House seems poised to keep talking about the issue until lawmakers do act.
“We aren’t afraid to look at what’s going on in systems and in outcomes and challenge ourself, ‘Where are the inequities? Where have we and to whom have we not given adequate support so that they are not able to be on an even playing field with everyone else?’” Harris said at the DNC fundraiser. “And is there something we can do about it? That's who we are. Those are the kinds of things we stand for.”
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Good Thursday morning and welcome to Supercreator Daily, your guide to the politicians, power brokers and policies shaping how creators work and live in the new economy. Send me tips, comments, questions — or just say hi: email@example.com.
TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing before traveling to Greensboro, North Carolina to visit an engineering center at North Carolina A&T and urge Congress to pass comprehensive competitiveness legislation in a speech. The president will then travel to Camp David for Easter weekend.
Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will speak at the virtual White House Passover Celebration.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
IN THE KNOW
— The man suspected of shooting 10 people on a Brooklyn subway train was arrested. The 62-year-old has been charged with a federal terrorism crime and had nine prior arrests in New York for charges including disorderly conduct and trespass. (Troy Closson, Jonah E. Bromwich and Rebecca Davis O’Brien / NYT)
— Related: The suspect reportedly called in the Crime Stoppers tip that led to his arrest from a local McDonald’s. Police responded to the McDonald’s and did not find James but upon driving around they spotted and detained him with the help of a Good Samaritan. (Brynn Gingras and Mark Morales / CNN)
— President Biden authorized an additional $800 million in weapons, ammunition and other security assistance. The steady supply of weapons comes as Russia prepares to intensify its attack in southeastern Ukraine.
— Almost three in four Americans think the worst of the war is yet to come. And more than eight in 10 Americans think that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal. (Quinnipiac University)
— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the nationwide mask requirement for airplanes and public transit until May 3. The mandate was scheduled to expire on April 18 but the additional 15 days will give the CDC more time to study the Omicron subvariant that is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the US.
— Related: New York State health officials believe two new Omicron subvariants are responsible for rising infections in the region over the past few weeks. They appear to spread more rapidly than the contagious BA.2 subvariant but it’s unclear if it’s because of higher transmissibility or an improved ability to evade the immune system. (Apoorva Mandavilli / NYT)
— President Biden announced five new federal judicial nominees. The slate includes who would be the first Asian American judge to ever serve on the Seventh Circuit, the first Hispanic judge to ever serve on the Ninth Circuit from Washington state, the first Hispanic woman to ever serve as an Illinois federal judge and the second Black judge to serve on the District Court for Delaware.
— The Justice Department reached an agreement to settle claims in four civil cases arising from when law enforcement officers in June 2020 during the George Floyd Protests used tear gas and other riot control tactics to forcefully clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square so Donald Trump could pose for a photo op in front of a church. The Department said changes to US Park Police and the US Secret Service policies include more specific requirements for visible identification of officers, limits on the use of non-lethal force and procedures to facilitate safe crowd dispersal.
— The fundraising arm of the Congressional Progressive Caucus endorsed four new candidates in open seats and eight new incumbents for the 2022 election cycle. “We’re proud to support and endorse this group of bold, progressive leaders that are fighting for working people in their communities and across the country,” Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the co-chairs of the organization, said in a statement. “Each and every one of them is working every day to take on corporate special interests, fight for economic and social justice, universal health care, climate action, and bold solutions to the urgent crises facing our country.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
The harder part, experts say, will be getting Amazon and Starbucks to agree on contracts. That’s not for lack of trying on the unions’ part. Rather, unions often face uphill battles with uncooperative companies and toothless labor laws.
Companies can find any number of ways to stall. Amazon is already objecting to the historic Staten Island vote, accusing the union of threatening voters to vote for the union, among other complaints. Starbucks has filed appeals that have delayed union votes but has said it will respect the bargaining process for the stores that have voted to unionize.
It’s clear why many companies stall: It can make unions lose momentum. If years pass without a contract, workers might wonder what the point of the union is at all. Additionally, both Amazon and Starbucks are in industries with high turnover, where the people who were so keen on unionizing might not be in that job long enough to see the contract through, which could potentially stunt the union drive.
The trick for the unions will be leveraging collective action like strikes, as well as public and political pressure, to try to get these employers to agree to a contract.
Cameron Joseph on if Democrats should do more to counter the GOP’s ‘pedophile’ attacks:
But claims made in bad faith can still pay political dividends, making even bonkers attacks risky to ignore. Democrats largely shrugged off GOP claims last election that even their most moderate members were socialists who wanted to defund the police‚ and then they were shocked to lose House seats in 2020. During a furious post-election conference call, many centrists complained their party had done too little to push back against those GOP claims.
Republican fearmongering about a looming “migrant caravan” helped Republicans minimize red-state losses in 2018; their dire warnings that Ebola and ISIS were coming to suburbs near you helped power the 2014 GOP midterm wave election. Hard-right claims that President Obama wasn’t a U.S. citizen helped spur GOP turnout in the 2010 Republican wave election.
The specific “pedophile” attacks haven’t been put into campaign ads, and might never be by mainstream candidates. But they don’t need to be explicit—Republicans can talk about Democrats being soft on child porn or hint they’re damaging children by supporting pro-LGBTQ policies to gin up base voters whose ears have been trained to hear the dog-whistles.
Erin Griffith and Kate Conger on how tech companies are motivating their workers back to the office:
The challenge for companies, [Stanford University economics professor Nick] Bloom said, is how to balance flexibility in letting workers set their own schedule with a more heavy-handed approach of forcing them to come in on specific days to maximize the usefulness of office time.
He said companies should focus on developing the right approach to hybrid work instead of wasting time and effort on showering employees with inducements like private concerts.
“Employees aren’t going to come in regularly just for the frills,” Mr. Bloom said. “What are you going to do next? Get Justin Bieber and then Katy Perry?”
Kalle Oskari Mattila on why American companies are mining the Finnish language for short, simple and unique brand names:
U.S. brands typically employ foreign-sounding names to convey certain cultural associations (for example Au Bon Pain, which seeks to re-create French cafe bakery culture, or Häagen-Dazs, a nod to Danish). The draw of many Finnish words is the opposite—their lack of affiliation for the average American. They can be seen as more neutral and harder to place, says Pekka Mattila, professor of practice in marketing at the Aalto University School of Business in Helsinki. “Having a Finnish brand name is an easy pick if you want to be different in a large market that is English-speaking,” he says.
Daniel Vaughn on Lawry’s seasoning, the worst-kept secret in Texas barbecue:
The Lawry’s name and the stylized “L” in the logo are probably familiar to most people reading this, but you may associate it with your parents’ dusty spice drawer. The mixture was developed by Lawrence Frank and was first sold in stores in 1938. That same year, Frank and Walter Van de Kamp opened the first Lawry’s the Prime Rib restaurant, in Beverly Hills. Today the company has locations in Las Vegas and Dallas. The seasoning line is now owned by McCormick & Co., but the restaurants remain in the Frank family. Their specialty is prime rib seasoned with Lawry’s, which, according to the ingredients label, contains salt, sugar, paprika, turmeric, onion, cornstarch, garlic, sunflower oil, and other unnamed spices. I use Lawry’s often in my home kitchen and on steaks. I haven’t tried it much on smoked meats, but my guess it that its embrace by a new wave of Texas barbecue content creators will spread its popularity.
To create a cuisine that is fictional, yet feels specific, Banda drew not just on studies of African foodways, but on family recipes. One dish, braised kale with tomatoes, was cribbed directly from the last meal Banda cooked with their aunt, who, like Banda’s father, was born in Malawi. “We talked and laughed, and it was a special moment,” says Banda, whose aunt died in 2020. “I thought of her a lot while I was writing this.”
One of the trickier conditions imposed by the Black Panther narrative was that Wakanda, unlike many other African nations, was never colonized — according to its lore, it had long remained hidden from the rest of the world to protect itself, and the valuable metal it contained, from outsiders. And so Banda had to find storylines to explain Western influences.
Visits to Wakanda by Captain America explained a simple trout dish and an iced coffee laced with cocoa. Travels to New York by the narrator character, the fictional palace chef, explain a pasta dish. And the current king, T’Challa, was educated in America and Europe under an assumed name, and some dishes are described as being food he discovered while abroad.
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