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Advancing maternal health equity

Maternal mortality has increased dramatically in the U.S. According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, the rate in 2021 was 32.9 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, which is more than ten times the estimated rates compared to other industrialized countries.

Experts believe that the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in the increase in numbers. Still, social determinants of health, such as age, race, income and location, have also contributed to higher mortality rates.

Black mothers are more likely to die from birth-related complications, with almost 70 deaths per 100,000 births.

Additionally, North Carolina received a D for infant and maternal health from the March of Dimes annual report card in 2022.

Through our partnership with the Novant Health Foundation, "EQUALibrium Live: Advancing Maternal Health Equity" explores all aspects of birth equity, such as accessible prenatal care, lactation consultants, doulas and midwives.

We spoke with health advocates and doctors to ask why women are dying at such alarming rates in the U.S. We also discussed what needs to be done to improve infant and maternal health nationally and in North Carolina.


Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”


Dr. Jacquelyn McMillian-Bohler, certified midwife and the director for educational excellence at Duke University School of Nursing.

Rebecca Severin, maternal health innovation program supervisor for the Division of Public Health, Maternal Health Branch

Dr. Jaleema Nanton Speaks, obstetrics and gynecology specialist at Novant Health in Winston-Salem

Lisa Lefler, director, culturally based Native Health Programs at Western Carolina University.

Major support for EQUALibrium comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.

Connect with Novant Health Foundation:

Dante Miller is a community engagement producer for WFAE and a Report for America (RFA) Corps members. Dante first joined WFAE in 2020 through RFA to work as part of a unique partnership with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Digital Public Library of America. Her work in that project allowed her to use radio, online stories, Wikipedia entries and events to meet the community's news and information needs.