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OB-GYN: Women of color need more doctors that look like them

Focusing on Black and brown maternal health

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — April is National Minority Health Month and it is a time to build awareness about the health disparities that persist among racial and ethnic minorities, especially the maternal health of women of color.

Dr. Heather Benson, an OB-GYN from Community Health Network, joined Daybreak on Monday to discuss the issue and how health care providers work to overcome it.

“It’s no secret now it’s been out that black women have a two-to-three times increased risk of morbidity and mortality during pregnancy,” Benson said. “And it’s one of those things that now that we’re aware, we need to start picking apart – why is that happening?”

Benson says the factors needing attention include access to care, knowledge of OB-GYNs and their roles, and why care is important. Benson added that OB-GYNs want to look at the patient’s medical and surgical histories, which may also impact their maternal health.

Data from a 2022 Indiana University Public Policy report shows that Indiana’s OB-GYN workforce has a low number of women, specifically racial and ethnic minorities.

According to its findings, there were 508 white doctors to 64 black doctors in 2021. Benson says that women of color need to see more health care officials that look like them.

“They need to see more people that look like them. But I think that even with what we have now, that doesn’t mean we can’t work towards improving things now,” she said. “So, it’s just really being mindful and being aware of different cultural differences, different preferences, different backgrounds. (Take) all that into consideration as we’re providing information and giving care.”

Benson wants new moms and moms-to-be to know that OB-GYNs are there to better women’s health and be a guiding force in becoming a mother.

“We’re here to help. We truly have a heart to serve. We are all very excited as OB-GYNs to take care of moms and babies. That’s what we live for. That’s what we really enjoy,” she said. “Just knowing that we are there to give comfort, to give knowledge and information, that’s the most important thing.”

When asked what questions women should ask their OB-GYN, Benson said “anything and everything.”

“I always tell my patients if you see something (online) and you’re concerned about something, you have a question, bring it to me and I will gladly talk about it. I’ll confirm it if it’s confirmable, I will tell you why I don’t think that’s the best thing to do.

“Then it’s really about shared decision-making. So, it’s not only my decision, but it’s our decision together. And if I’m doing my job correctly, then it’s going to be a wonderful shared decision. And you’re going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I understand why you want me to do that. I like that plan. Let’s incorporate that into my care,’” she said.

(WISH Photo/Hanna Mordoh & Dr. Heather Benson)