Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Black women in Wilmington organize to end maternal and infant health disparities

Courtesy of Shamarla McCoy
Marie Pinkney, Shané Darbey, Shamarla McCoy and ShaDarr Strange—executive committee of Black Mothers In Power—host a Shop Chat, an initiative by Planned Parenthood to promote dialogue about health equity in the Black community.";s:3

Black and Native American women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The pregnancy-related mortality ratio for black women with at least a college degree was more than five times that of their white counterparts in a multi-year national study released last year by the federal agency.

The mortality rate for black infants in the City of Wilmington is more than three times that of white babies across Delaware.

But a group of black women in Wilmington, called Black Mothers in Power, is working to change these numbers.

Delaware Public Media’s Sophia Schmidt talks with the group's director of public relations Shamarla McCoy about their legislative priorities.

The Black Mothers in Power group presented legislative priorities at a public listening session early this year. 

Shamarla McCoy, who directs public relations for the group, says it is advocating for Medicaid and private insurance reimbursement for the services of Doulas, who help guide and advocate for women through pregnancy and birth.  

“Doulas have been shown to really help women through the birthing process, in terms of being there to ask the right questions, creating a birthing plan, being there through labor and delivery, really being a support person,” she said. 

Black Mothers in Power is also advocating for implicit bias training for healthcare providers, which McCoy paints as vital to reducing disparities. 

“We know that racism is the primary factor for these disparities,” said McCoy. “And I think a lot of times when the bias is implicit, it’s very hard for healthcare providers to even acknowledge that they may have some sort of biases.”

The group also supports several legislative efforts to reduce disparities in maternal and infant health that are underway.

The General Assembly passed a resolutionearly this year urging state health officials to examine extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum. 

And a bill introduced in the state House would allow the Delaware Department of Correction to establish a programunder which eligible inmates who give birth while in prison could raise their babies there for up to 18 months.


Black Mothers in Power hosts an ally training on “how to show up for Black people when you’re not Black” early next month. 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
Related Content