A white woman in a medical mask is being attended to in the foreground by a white doctor; in the bac...
Leah Flores, Alto Images/Stocksy, Paul Venning/Getty

11 Brutal Stats That Illuminate The Health Care Gap

Some things are still not created equal.

Originally Published: 

Courtney Hale/Gety

Between the lack of universal health care in the U.S. and the nation’s racist history of segregating people of color and limiting their socioeconomic opportunities, access to achieve and maintain good health is not created equal.


“Health disparities exist for a constellation of reasons, including but not limited to health care access, education, historically shaped ideologies, socioeconomic status, and inherent biases from health care providers,” says Dr. Melissa Charles, M.D., a clinical research scientist.

Jelena Markovic/Stocksy

“All of these variables at play have created the climate we are currently in — a climate where health outcomes are disproportionately better in some demographics and worse in others,” says Charles.

Women of color … are at higher risk of death because of many complicated reasons, not the least of which is institutionalized racism and racial bias in the health care system. [WOC] are often ignored when they complain of pain and other symptoms, putting them at risk of postpartum complications.

Luz Claudio, Ph.D., professor of environmental medicine and public health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York

Reversing this tragic course requires closing the health equity gap, says Stacey D. Stewart, president and CEO at March of Dimes. “The U.S. remains among the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth — especially for women of color,” says Stewart.Jamie Grill Atlas/Stocksy

Borislav Zhuykov/Stocksy

Narrowing the health equity gap across the country, she says, then requires “addressing social determinants of health and systemic racial inequity.” Following are 11 statistics that illustrate the health equity gap and show the consequences of these inequities in our health care system.

More than 2.2 million women of childbearing age in the U.S. live where there is no hospital or birth center. These areas, called maternity care deserts, are often urban areas with higher poverty rates. Another 4.8 million women live in counties with limited to no access to prenatal care.

'Nowhere to Go: Maternity Care Deserts Across the U.S.' / March of Dimes

Saptak Gangulv/Stocksy

Chalit Saphaphak/Stocksy

American Indian/Alaska Native and Black women are two to three times more likely to die during childbirth or from pregnancy-related causes than white women. Of the approximately 700 maternal deaths that occur each year, about 60% are due to preventable causes.

Preterm birth, or when a baby is born three or more weeks before the due date, is the cause of more than 17% of infant deaths in the U.S.March of Dimes
Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be uninsured than white and Asian women. When pregnant women are uninsured, they receive less prenatal care and less care in the weeks immediately after childbirth.KFF/CDC
This is despite the fact that Black and white women are diagnosed with breast cancer at the same rate. Disparities exist even in the diagnostic stage — doctors find breast cancer at earlier stages in white women than they do in Black women. Komen / CDC
Gestational diabetes can lead to complications, such as preeclampsia and stillbirth. It usually goes away after pregnancy, but Black women are at twice the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes after.March of Dimes / CDC

While the survival rate for ovarian cancer has improved for white women over the decades, the prognosis has gotten worse for Black women. Experts say Black and Hispanic women, in particular, do not receive the recommended medical treatments for this deadly reproductive cancer.

Because of the stigma and silence around fertility issues in the Black community, plus the restrictive costs and other factors, Black women are less likely to seek fertility treatments. Journal of Assisted Reproduction & Genetics

Simone Wave/Stocksy

Every hour, two infants in the U.S. die. In total, about 21,000 infants die each year, and they’re twice as likely to be Black babies than white. What’s more, a startling new study suggests that Black babies are more likely to survive when cared for by Black doctors.

These noncancerous growths in the uterus can cause anemia, excessive bleeding, and abdominal pain. Black women are also more likely to have more and larger fibroids, which cause more severe symptoms.American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology / New York Times

Black women are twice as likely as white women to experience severe complications of pregnancy or injury during childbirth. These incidences — extreme blood loss, life-threatening infection, cardiac arrest, and aneurysm, to name a few — are considered near misses.

Diane Durongpisitkul/Stocksy

This article is the result of a Romper & March of Dimes (MOD) collaboration. Watch Closing The Health Equity Gap, an illuminating panel conversation with President Stacey D. Stewart, part of MOD’s It Starts With Mom Live series. Romper is proud to be the national media partner.

Thanks for reading,
head home for more!