UTA team works to lower high maternal death rate in North Texas

dfwnewsa | February 5, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

UTA team works to lower high maternal death rate in North Texas

Members of The University of Texas at Arlington Reproductive Health Advocates sit in front of the School of Social Work/College of Nursing and Health Innovation Smart Hospital Building. From left to right: Kyrah Brown, assistant professor in the department of kinesiology; Tiara Pratt, public health student at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation; Jaquetta Reeves, assistant professor at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation; Rebecca Jackson, public health student at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation; and Brandie Green, clinical assistant professor in the department of kinesiology. (David Moreno | Fort Worth Report)
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Rebecca Jackson remembers seeing her mother experience several complications that jeopardized her health while she was pregnant. 


Jackson never thought her mother’s experiences were common until she took the Urbanization and Vulnerable Populations class at The University of Texas at Arlington. 

The class, led by clinical assistant professor Brandie Green, focused on how different socioeconomic backgrounds can influence policies, programs and the health of the community. 

During one segment of the class, Green discussed maternal morbidity and child health and the disparities Black women in Texas face. That moment inspired Jackson, a public health student at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, to do more. 

“I started to see there’s a lot going on, especially with Black women when it comes to maternal and child health,” she said. “It hit close to home.” 

Tiara Pratt, who is also a public health student at UTA, had an experience similar to Jackson’s. Recently, three of Pratt’s close friends had children and shared the difficulties of their birthing experiences. Hearing those stories inspired Pratt to do more research, she said. 

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Now, Jackson and Pratt have teamed up to launch a three-year project to address high rates of maternal morbidity among Black women in North Texas.

Tiara Pratt, left, and Rebecca Jackson sit by UTA’s School of Social Work/College of Nursing and Health Innovation Smart Hospital Building. Both women are students in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation. (David Moreno | Fort Worth Report)

Maternal morbidity explores the unexpected short- or long-term health problems that result from being pregnant or giving birth. Common conditions include blood clots, bleeding, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and infection, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.  

Maternal mortality is the death of a woman from complications of pregnancy or childbirth. Over 50,000 women in the U.S. suffer from pregnancy complications annually, but Black women are at least three times likelier to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The first part of Jackson and Pratt’s Black Reproductive Health and Justice PhotoVoice Project will examine a select number of Black women, ages 18 to 30, who have children in Tarrant and Dallas counties. 

The students will provide their subjects with cameras and ask them to take photos of their environment. The team is in the process of searching for members of their target group to participate in the project. The hope is for them to show the study participants’ daily experiences and how they impact their reproductive health, said Pratt.

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“We really want to highlight some of the challenges and, oftentimes, the joyous moments we have in our community,” she said. 


The photos can also make a difference for health inequalities on the legislative level, said Jackson. 

“While the point is really to empower young Black women to show what they see …  we can bring up (these photos) when it comes to talking about policies, because it’s very hard to get across what someone’s going through if they’re not good with words. But, when you have someone take a photo, a photo can mean 1,000 words.” 

The second part of the project, which is in the works, will focus on a speaker series that invites health experts to discuss the intersectionality of health and racism and other structural inequities. 

In order to execute the project through the university, Jackson and Pratt are working under the  mentorship of Green and UTA assistant professors Kyrah Brown and Jaquetta Reeves. The professors will assist with gathering data to help turn the research into a published work.

“We are truly here to support them and support their leadership, because they’re going to be our colleagues once they graduate, and we want to prepare them for that,” said Brown. 

The three-year project is funded by Power to Decide, an organization that advocates for young people to have access to sexual and reproductive resources. The organization also raises awareness about the inequalities of reproductive well-being among different groups. The UTA project is one of 10 groups across the country collecting data to improve access to reproductive health resources. 

Even though beginning stages for the project continue to be finalized, the team is prepared for the lasting impacts that will come once everything is complete. 

The five women believe their official name reflects a bond of strength: the UTA Reproductive Health Advocates. 

“We believe there is an urgent need to construct, realign and improve systems that support people of color, as well as to foster an environment of equity, empowerment and autonomy,” Reeves said. 

David Moreno is the health reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact him at david.moreno@fortworthreport.org or @davidmreports on X, formerly known as Twitter.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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