Life Course Pathways That Link Racism in the Healthcare System to Health Inequities

Pre-existing racial health disparities at birth due to unequal access to medical care can result in inequities for the next generation.
Racial disparities in birth outcomes result from differential trajectories in women’s health and development over the life course and not just during pregnancy. To reduce the disparities in infant mortality rates between Black and white mothers, Black women need better quality care at earlier stages of life than during pregnancy. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 exemplifies how anti-discriminatory laws in health care and other institutions can improve the health of present and future generations. For instance, Black women born after the desegregation of hospitals in the late 1960s had better health in adulthood. Also, twenty years later, this cohort of Black women gave birth to healthier babies than Back women born before the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Despite the narrowing of adverse birth outcomes between Black and White mothers, vast racial disparities in infant and maternal mortality remain in the US.