issue Community Health 2024

Editor’s Note

By Dan Moran

If you have children, you remember the questions: Boy or a girl? What names have you picked out? What’s the due date?

You might also recall this one: What hospital? Some are fortunate to have that answer and prepare for it. Brenda Reyes, RN, CLC, can testify that not everyone has that advantage.

Speaking last fall at an 鶹Ӱ symposium on maternal mortality, Ms. Reyes, who serves as vice president for the Chicago-based birth-equity agency HealthConnect One, recalled conversations with expectant mothers who in some cases were in their ninth month.

“When I would ask the question to a lot of them — beautiful Black women with their bellies — ‘So where are you gonna deliver?’ Do you know what a lot of the women would share? ‘I don’t know,’” she said, adding that in too many cases, “women are scared to go to the hospital to give birth.”

“There’s data that says that Indigenous women, Latino women, Black women experience racism at the hospitals where we’re supposed to bring our babies into this world. Nobody should have fear. People should be making informed decisions for themselves.”

Ms. Reyes was among the symposium participants using personal accounts to illustrate elevated maternal mortality rates among women of color in the United States. Numbers can inform us about such a crisis, but on-the-ground stories take us that extra mile. Lakshmi Emory, MD, MPH, shared a tale from her perspective as a Black physician having a baby.

“Nineteen years ago, I gave birth, and even though I was a physician, I felt that I experienced racism during my delivery,” Dr. Emory said. “I wasn’t listened to, even though I was a doctor. It just brought to the fore that ‘what do people do who aren’t doctors? Who’s advocating for them?’”

These are the lived-in realities we try to deliver to readers of Helix. In this issue, you won’t just see the metrics associated with COVID-19 — you’ll hear from an epidemiologist who came out of retirement to fight it. You won’t just learn about a full-ride Chicago Medical School scholarship — you’ll walk a recipient’s journey from Cameroon to 鶹Ӱ.

These accounts circle back to an approach that Ms. Reyes points to when asked to name one factor that might address heightened maternal mortality rates: hearing women when they tell their stories — “because they’re the experts.” More than 2,000 years after Julius Caesar coined the phrase, experience is still the teacher of all things.

Dan Moran is the communications director with 鶹Ӱ’s Division of Marketing and Brand Management.