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Penn Nursing Supports Black Maternal Health Week

To mark Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) in the United States, faculty from Penn Nursing, including Professor and Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing Antonia M. Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, issued a statement recognizing the initiative as an important step in efforts to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality among Black women. The statement points to the “devastating effects of racism on maternal health.”

Also signing onto the BMHW support statement from Penn Nursing are Hanne Harbison, MHSPH, MSN, WHNP-BC, Director of the Women’s Health Gender Related Nurse Practitioner Track; Kimberly Kovach Trout, PhD, CNM, APRN, Assistant Professor of Women’s Health; and Holly Harner, PhD, MBA, MPH, RN, WHCNP-BC, FAAN, the Afaf I. Meleis Director of the Center for Global Women’s Health.

The fourth annual BMHW takes place annually from April 11 to April 17. BMHW underscores racial disparities in health outcomes. Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and four to five times more likely when they’re over the age of 30. Penn Nursing’s mission and values task its students, faculty, and alumni with improving the health of all people and eliminating health disparities—in part by disrupting social inequities in health care.

Founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance—a Black women-led cross-sectoral alliance that advocates, drives research, builds power, and shifts culture for Black maternal health, rights, and justice—BMHW seeks to deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health in the U.S. through awareness, activism, and community building.

On April 12, 2021, the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) marked BMHW by announcing that Illinois is the first state to provide continuity of full Medicaid benefit coverage for mothers by offering extended eligibility for a woman during the entire first year after delivery—something that Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14), a nurse by training and Penn Nursing’s 2021 graduation speaker, fought for as part of the Momnibus bill that she, Alma Adams (NC-12), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus introduced earlier this year. Penn Nursing has also publicly supported the Momnibus legislation.