On March 4, 2020, Women United in Philanthropy (WUP) hosted an educational panel discussion on How Healthcare Disparities Impact Women and Children. More than 120 people gathered at The Omni, for this engaging topical panel, with community healthcare providers: Dr. Cameron Webb, Torri Ayers, Dr. Paige Perriello, and Doreen Bonnet.  

The panelists offered stimulating and informative conversation, with a highly skilled perspective across the direct healthcare community, home visiting, perinatal care, and doula services. Each panelist felt that women and children would benefit from additional partnerships that offer bridges to healthcare and that community and business groups could advocate and help provide more holistic, optimal health care for black women and children in our community. The national pregnancy death rate for black women is twice that of white women, and alarmingly in Virginia the rate is three times as high. Panelists agreed that although quality healthcare is a fundamental need, it remains heavily influenced by one’s zip code.

The group discussed the Social Determinants of Health (SDH), which include:

  • Economic Stability (housing, food, job),
  • Education (both high school completion, to increase the odds of achieving economic stability, and also early child education, which gives children a strong foundation),
  • Healthcare Services/Insurance,
  • Neighborhood and built-in environment, and
  • Social Contacts/Support.

The panelists called for holistic action and reaction in support of women and children, which include empowering and supporting patients when they advocate for themselves, and ensuring that medical staff listen carefully to understand their patients’ concerns and take their concerns seriously.

All of the panelists agreed that active and reflective listening is the key to building a trusting relationship between patients and providers. This allows the professionals to develop a global view of the family’s circumstances and do a better job of treating them and connecting them to community resources. The ultimate goal is to help parents be effective advocates for themselves and their children.