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Morning Brief: The Stress Of Systemic Racism Is Killing Black Mothers And Babies

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Good morning, L.A.

Among the myriad issues highlighted in 2020 was America’s profound inequities in medical care. Last year’s focus was, of course, largely on the coronavirus, but the disparities permeate all realms of wellness – including pregnancy and newborn care.

In L.A. County, Black mothers are four times more likely than other women to die of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, and Black infants are three times more likely than white or Asian infants to die before they turn one. Organizations such as Kindred Space LA, a birthing center in the Hyde Park neighborhood of South Los Angeles, aim to chip away at those disparities.

Owned and operated by midwives Kimberly Durdin and Allegra Hill, the space opened last year with the goal of providing comprehensive, holistic care for Black families.

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"We have literally pledged our lives, at this moment, to be a part of the solution," said Durdin.

The need for services such as these can’t be overstated. The reasons for Black mothers’ and babies’ comparatively poor outcomes are vast and varied, ranging from inequitable distribution of information to poor air quality in primarily Black neighborhoods.

But as we’ve reported in the past, the primary reason for Black families’ high maternal and infant mortality is the lifelong stress caused by systemic racism.

For Black women, non-binary people or people who are transgender, that discrimination — and its accompanying stress — is compounded by their gender, as well as the hyper-vigilance required to be constantly braced for a racist or sexist comment.

The physiological effects are straightforward: When human beings experience stress, the body releases stress hormones. Under ideal circumstances, they should ebb and flow. But if outside factors cause them to be released steadily — or, say, over the course of a lifetime — they can lead to significant medical problems.

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In pregnant people, an excess of stress hormones can cause premature delivery — complications of which are the primary cause of death for Black babies.

In 2018, the county’s Department of Public Health set a goal of reducing the disparity between outcomes for Black families and white families by 30%, but it’s not immediately clear how far they’ve gone towards achieving that.

What is clear, though, is that something has to change — and it’s women such as Durdin and Hill who are leading the charge.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.


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What Else You Need To Know Today

  • Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego, is testing whether a Republican can win statewide office in California again with his 2022 bid for governor.
  • The latest entry in our Black in L.A. series centers on the story of a San Fernando Valley native’s experiences with code-switching, from her Catholic prep school to interactions with inner-city kids, and how that duality still affects her.
  • Disability rights advocates in California are voicing their concerns about the state's decision to move to an age-based vaccination system.
  • Community land trusts are non-profit organizations that scoop up affordable housing before it gets into the hands of speculators — and they’re gaining popularity in L.A.
  • A scathing report blames a widespread COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin, which ultimately killed 29 people, on mistakes by prison health officials.
  • L.A. District Attorney George Gascón is fighting his own staff in court, defending his new policies aimed at reducing mass incarceration and ending racial disparities in the justice system.
  • Retired LASD detective Gil Carrillo talks about tracking down and capturing the so-called Night Stalker.

Before You Go … Cupid In The Age Of Covid: LAist's Valentine's Day Gift Guide For The Pandemic Era

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Valentine's Day is coming! (Photo collage by Giuliana Mayo)

It's been a year. Living in isolation (or spending way too much time around the same people), wearing nothing but soft clothes, binge-watching Ted Lasso (just us? cool...) and stress-baking. As we head toward a sad milestone — our first Valentine's Day in quarantine — we're trying to figure out, like everyone else, how do we celebrate love under lockdown? Vaccines!

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Failing that, there's food.

From heart-shaped pizzas and boozy chocolate bombs to DIY cocktail kits and lavish spreads, we've got something for anyone who's searching for cupid amid the coronavirus. So amp up the romance for your sweetie — or spend a delicious day on your own and celebrate this manufactured Hallmark holiday with some of L.A.'s tastiest treats.


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The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft, and check LAist.com for updates on these stories and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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