Root causes

Social, economic and environmental factors play a significant role in health outcomes for Black families in Dane County. In order to change the persistent disparities, we must work to eliminate the root causes that drive the inequity woven into our political and economic structures, physical and social environments and health care systems. These factors create stress on Black families that stretches back generations and they emerged loud and clear in the Saving Our Babies report. We used a comprehensive, multilayered process that collected both quantitative and qualitative data to identify three key drivers of poor birth outcomes for Black mothers and their babies:
  • Institutional racism and bias and its looming impact on Black life and progress
  • A generational struggle for economic security and stability
  • Stressed Black family systems
10 root causes for the crisis:
The Black women, men and youth we talked with for the Saving Our Babies report helped identify the core socio-structural factors that they see shaping their health and the health of their families and communities.
  1. Racism, discrimination and institutional bias
  2. Bias and cultural disconnect in health-care delivery experiences
  3. Economic insecurity
  4. Housing insecurity and high cost of living
  5. Poor access to health-supporting assets
  6. Inadequate social supports
  7. Gaps in health literacy, education, and support
  8. Disconnected and hard-to-navigate community resources
  9. Systemic barriers to individual and family advancement
  10. Chronic stress
“We know that Black mothers are more likely than white mothers to face social and economic challenges that contribute to poor pregnancy and birth outcomes. They are often a result of discrimination and structural racism. Some of these challenges include inadequate housing, food insecurity, income inequities and other really significant barriers. These poor outcomes are reversible, and we need to work on changing that together."
Janel Heinrich
Director, Public Health Madison and Dane County

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With the right investments and collaborations at the local level, we can repair the damage caused by decades of racism and discrimination that were built into the foundation of our systems and institutions.  Together, we will create a Dane County where Black moms, babies and families can thrive.
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