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Statistics on racial inequities in maternal health are staggering. Here's what one NYC hospital is doing to make improvements.

What Mount Sinai West is doing to improve racial inequities in maternal health care
What Mount Sinai West is doing to improve racial inequities in maternal health care 02:13

NEW YORK -- Black Maternal Health Week kicks off Thursday. It's a national week of action to raise awareness around racial inequities in maternal health outcomes around the country, and the statistics are staggering.

On March 19, Kathryn Hurley welcomed her second son, Raphael, into the world.

"Holding him and feeling like, OK, I'm safe, I'm good, he's good, it was just like the biggest relief ever," she said.

The 38-year-old was considered "high risk" with an inherited blood-clotting disorder, Factor V Leiden. She developed a clot early in her pregnancy.

"Luckily I had a doctor who took my pain seriously ... I don't know that a lot of women of color are having the same experiences," she said.

Finding a doctor that listened and self-advocacy were important for Hurley as a patient, especially knowing the startling statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:  Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.

"It is something that in the back of your mind -- you're so vulnerable because your life and your baby's life is in the hands of these experts, and you just have to assume that there's no bias in that room," Hurley said.

"Health care and listening to patients and determining where this goes is really important to all of us and that everybody gets equal care," said Dr. Lois Brustman, an OBGYN and maternal fetal medicine specialist at Mount Sinai West.

It's a focus at Mount Sinai West, where Hurley delivered. The hospital system analyzes its own data to see where improvements need to be made.

"We've been able to lower our C-section rates significantly and narrow that disparity," said Dr. Desmond Sutton, medical director of labor and delivery at Mount Sinai West.

Sutton says he's part of a committee which zeros in on the impact of social determinants of health, the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes.

"So like for preeclamptic patients -- how is housing instability affecting those outcomes? For patients that have diabetes -- how is food insecurity affecting those outcomes? Because the hope is we can take this data and advocate change in our community," he said.

"I definitely think talking about Black maternal health, talking about the experience, is like the first step," Hurley said.

She also called for ensuring there are pathways for more Black professionals in the health care system.

"So I can look around the room and see more women of color and feel a little more advocated for because maybe they share similar experiences to me," she said.

According to the CDC, more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States are preventable, which is why raising awareness is so important.

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