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During Black Maternal Health Week, WA Doc Says ‘Racism Manifests in Body’ [AUDIO]


This week is Black Maternal Health Week, highlighting the disparities in health outcomes for pregnant people.

Black mothers are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts.


Dr. Jemma Nonog, thriving families director of health equity, Kaiser Permanente of Washington, who also practices midwifery, said there are similar mortality rates in Washington, and the pandemic has exacerbated the issues of structural racism within the health system. Nonog said racism manifests in the body.

“The extra stress causes preterm births and amplifies some of the things that we see even before the pandemic,” Nonog explained.

You Might Also Like:  Black Maternal Health Week Underscores Racial Health Disparities

In 2021, the White House began recognizing Black Maternal Health Week and has released a proclamation this year as well.


Nonog pointed out there are important warning signs for pregnant people to look out for. They should reach out to a health professional if they have headaches that will not go away, fainting spells or unusual swelling.

Nonog noted they also should be aware of thoughts of harming themselves or their baby because it could be signs of a mood disorder. Perhaps equally important, the doctor added, people know they deserve to be heard.

“As a BIPOC provider who also is a parent, it can be difficult to really speak up, given my own history of internalized racism,” Nonog acknowledged. “I had to work three to four times harder than my white counterparts just to be heard or valued.”


Nonog added Kaiser Permanente is supporting pregnant people in other ways too, such as monthly cohorts meeting with health professionals. The doctor emphasized the health organization is also trying to step back to understand its role in addressing structural racism.

“We are listening to the community, inviting them in to give us feedback of what they need,” Nonog stressed. “And we’re trying to look at the data. We’re trying to assess any implicit bias that we might have.”

Erik Tegethoff headshot
Eric Tegethoff | WNS

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He’s also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser, and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

The above article was provided by Washington News Service. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its content.


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