Photo Exhibit Now on Display at Sentara Focuses on Innovation on Maternal Health

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Provided by Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center

A documentary photo exhibit went on display at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center (SNVMC) on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Created by photojournalist Karen Kasmauski, the project calls attention to the need for improved maternal health in the U.S. and demonstrates the value of midwifery care, particularly for mothers of color.

Maternal Deaths are Rising

It surprises some people to learn that maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are worsening, particularly for black and brown mothers.

  • The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries/nations.
  • Black females are three times as likely to die from pregnancy related causes as white women.

As reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, the maternal mortality rate for 2021 was 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with a rate of 23.8 in 2020 and 20.1 in 2019.ii The CDC also reports that over 80 percent of pregnancy-related deaths were determined to be preventable.

Speakers at the exhibit kickoff event on May 21 included Dr. Ahan Hunter, an Ob-Gyn physician, Misti Gray, a Certified Nurse Midwife, and nurse practitioner Sheena Kundid, MSN, RN, Director, Women’s Health Center, and SNVMC President Jeff Joyner.

Hunter spoke of the alarming statistics of maternal deaths and some of challenges that involve access to care, insurance practices, lack of clinical providers, and trust issues among minority populations.

“In America, the maternal mortality rate has been rising since we’ve been keeping track of this, since 1985. The biggest reasons women are dying are bleeding after delivery, high blood pressure, infections, and complications from delivery,” Hunter said in his remarks on May 21.

“There’s a shortage of maternity care providers per number of births in the U.S., and that’s a big part of the problem and one way to combat this is with midwives,” continued Hunter. “If you look at all the developed countries in the world, the U.S. and Canada supply the lowest number of midwives and OBGYNs, every other country supplies at least two to six times more.”

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Ahan Hunter, MD, and Misti Gray, CNM, WHNP.

As a certified midwife, Gray spoke of the valuable role that midwives play: “As midwives, we have a profound responsibility not just to deliver babies but to advocate for the health and well-being of mothers, regardless of their race or background.

“In the face of this crisis, midwifery care emerges as a glimmer of hope and a powerful tool for change. Midwives recognize that pregnancy and childbirth are not just medical events but deeply personal and transformative experiences that require personalized support and guidance,” Gray said.

Kundid said, “Anytime we can create awareness of the maternal mortality crisis in our nation and be an active part of the conversation, I feel it’s our duty to do so. We are honored to lead the charge and seize this opportunity at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center and live our mission of improving health every day.”

Innovation in Maternal Health Exhibit

Located adjacent to the Women’s Health Center near the hospital’s main entrance, the exhibit will be on display through the month of June into mid-July. The exhibit is available for public viewing during normal business hours. All visitors are required to stop at the main entrance reception, share a government issued photo ID along with their destination, and receive a photo visitor badge.

SNVMC President Jeff Joyner said, “The photo exhibit was previously on display at Sentara CarePlex, and we are grateful for the opportunity to showcase these beautiful photos and stories that demonstrate successful collaboration and respectful maternal care.”

The documentary exhibit was supported with a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

 

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