Plenary 1 - Dx: Racism: The Role of Diagnostic Error in Maternal Health Inequities

Sunday, October 16
1.25 CME/CNE

Each year in the United States, about 700 people die during pregnancy or in the year after. Another 50,000 people each year have unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery with serious short- or long-term health consequences. For Black people in the United States, the risk of death during pregnancy or in the year after is 3 times that of their white counterparts. The reasons behind these troubling statistics are multi-fold and complex but have their root in a history of racism in the United States (U.S.). 

Delays in recognition of risk factors and escalation of care are known to be associated with preventable maternal morbidity and mortality. These include delays in assessing clinical warning signs, providing accurate diagnoses, implementing optimal treatment, and coordinating care with multidisciplinary teams.  We must ask ourselves what’s at the root of diagnostic errors such as these? And how and why are they contributing to the preventable deaths of Black birthing people at such alarming rates?

In this talk I will describe the history of racism in health care delivery and how it shows up in diagnostic error as it relates to maternal and infant health. I will also offer thoughts, ideas, and strategies we might consider as practitioners, researchers and leaders to address this issue from a lens of antiracism and diagnostic equity. 

Learning Objectives

  • Identify and describe how structural racism affects health outcomes.
  • Apply an antiracism framework to the field of health.
  • Evaluate and incorporate values of equity and inclusion in health care professional practices.