New campaign aims to turn the tide on maternal mortality in Chicago’s Black community

Shernita Hosey, a 38-year-old single mother of two daughters in Humboldt Park, knows the struggles of postpartum depression. She has not only experienced it herself, but she has also seen the impact it has on other Black women in her community. This firsthand experience has motivated her to work as an outreach worker with EverThrive Illinois, an organization focused on Health equity advocacy.

Hosey can be spotted going door to door in South Side neighborhoods, spreading awareness and providing information as part of EverThrive Illinois’ latest campaign on Black maternal morbidity. This campaign seeks to address the alarming Health disparities faced by Black pregnant and postpartum women.

The campaign has been developed based on data from a report by the Illinois Department of Public Health which revealed that Black women are at significantly higher risk of pregnancy-related medical conditions and mortality compared to white women. In response to these statistics, EverThrive Illinois has launched “The Gathering” campaign, aimed at providing resources and information for Black women before, during, and after their pregnancies. This initiative also includes a glossary of terms to improve communication between healthcare providers and Black pregnant women.

Chi Chi Okwu, the Executive Director of EverThrive Illinois, emphasized the importance of incorporating culturally relevant language in clinical settings to bridge the communication gap between healthcare professionals and Black women. Through focus groups and surveys conducted in South and West sides of Chicago, EverThrive crafted this resource with the input of the community it aims to serve.

The impact of “The Gathering” campaign has been profound, reaching over 30,000 individuals since its launch. Community Engagement Director, Tamela Milan-Alexander, stressed the need to address biased and disrespectful healthcare experiences faced by Black pregnant women. Additionally, she highlighted the lack of awareness surrounding maternal morbidity within the community.

Looking ahead, EverThrive Illinois plans to expand the campaign’s resources to include mental Health and address the role of fathers in the conversation about Black maternal Health. They aim to build cultural competence among healthcare providers and advocate for system-level changes that prioritize the needs of Black pregnant women.

As the campaign progresses, it aims to facilitate deeper conversations, providing a platform for people to share their stories and experiences. Hosey, who is actively involved in the campaign, shared her personal journey as a means to connect with others in her community and highlight the resources available to them.

The ultimate goal of “The Gathering” campaign is to create a supportive environment for Black pregnant and postpartum women, where they can advocate for themselves and receive the care they deserve. Through community engagement and awareness, it aims to bridge the existing gap between healthcare providers and Black communities, ultimately promoting systemic change that prioritizes equitable care for all women.

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