A new documentary and educational campaign on health equity will be launched on May 1st, 2022, from Oprah’s Harpo Productions studio partnering with The Smithsonian Channel.
The Color of Care documents stories of people who have lost loved ones in the COVID-19 pandemic as well as expert interviews with frontline workers and public health experts and researchers sharing data on systemic racism in health care that has underpinned racial health disparities since slavery was instituted in America.
Oprah’s website talked about the project, quoting her saying,
“At the height of the pandemic, I read something that stopped me in my tracks. I read a story about Gary Fowler, a Black man who died in his home because no hospital would treat him despite his Covid-19 symptoms. As we continued to hear how the racial disparities in our country were exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic, I felt something needed to be done. This film is my way of doing something, with the intention that the stories we share serve as both a warning and foster a deeper understanding of what changes need to take place to better serve us all.”
Among the many testimonies in the film is Dr. Neel Shah, Assistant Professor of OBGYN and Reproductive Biology at the Harvard Medical School and Chief Medical Officer of the Maven Clinic, who told the Smithsonian Magazine,
“Racial inequity shows up in every dimension of health care. The thing about maternal health that has made it the galvanizing focus of my whole career is that the wellbeing of mothers is a bellwether for the wellbeing of society as a whole.”
Here is a trailer to give us a preview of the documentary.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Dr. Shah’s inclusion in The Color of Care is especially crucial given that Black women face three times the maternal mortality risk as White women in the U.S. This stark data point, worsening over the past few years, was revealed during Black Maternal Health Week, April 11-17, when the CDC published the latest statistics on Black women’s health in America.
In tandem, the White House issued a Proclamation on Black Maternal Health Week 2022, calling out the tragic fact that Black women are more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, regardless of income or education.
President Biden and Vice President Harris have been collaborating on a portfolio of strategies to root out systemic racism that has contributed to these devastating health outcomes. In the Proclamation, President Biden said his administration was,
“Committing to building a world in which Black women do not have to fear for their safety, their well-being, their dignity, or their lives before, during, and after pregnancy.”
In parallel, Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 in the U.S. Congress to address what the Act coins, “the Social Determinants for Mom,.” pregnant and post-partum.
Those risk factors include, embedded in the Act, housing, transportation, agriculture (nutrition), environment, child care, and policies to redress racism, bias, trust and respect in the U.S. health care system. In addition, there is an important section in the act titled “Data to Save Moms,” covering data collection, process and quality measures, and “Tech to Save Moms” such as telehealth and virtual care capacity for maternal and child health.
Black maternal mortality is but one of a long list of health disparities and inequities in the U.S. that have long plagued American health care and public health. Baking health into all public policies, from food systems to built environments, child care, job training and digital inclusion, would all work together to bolster peoples’ well-being and reduce the stark and morally wrong differences in health outcomes between White and Black people in the U.S.
Watch for The Color of Care to learn more when it launches at 8 pm Eastern time on The Smithsonian Channel.