Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2021

Document Type



Global Honors

First Advisor

Christine Stevens


In the United States, African American women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than any other race or ethnic group. The high maternal mortality rate has continued to be a global problem. The maternal mortality rate (MMR) is a universal measurement of registered maternal deaths due to birth or pregnancy-related complications. The U.S. has continued to have an MMR well above the global average despite establishing interventions in socio-economic gaps. In an effort to decrease MMR, the United Nations proposed a global plan to decrease maternal mortality by 75% as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in the year 2000. Despite these efforts, only nine countries accomplished this goal, leading to a post-MDG called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The SDG was established in 2015 and included a target to decrease the MMR by 2030. Due to most maternal deaths being preventable, it is pertinent that countries reevaluate and strengthen their approach to the previous MDG to achieve the SDG target. My research paper addresses the following questions: (1) what causal factors perpetuate structural racism within maternal healthcare? (2) how can we design a health system which addresses these causal factors? (3) how can it be applied in a global context? I look to solutions within the U.S., particularly because of its distinctive historical context of enslaving black women and assimilating oppressive structures within its systems. I use the critical race theory as a theoretical framework to analyze the racist infrastructures that perpetuate a high MMR in the U.S. compared to other high-income countries. The paper begins by looking at distinct historical trauma that black women have undergone in the last 402 years and how it relates to maternal medicine. Next, it examines policies, access levels, and quality of care that promote disproportionate maternal health outcomes. Then I will look to another country with a lower MMR that has successfully addressed structural issues within healthcare, whether racial, income, or access, and see how those structures translate to the United States systems and its global contribution to SDG goals.