There’s no growth in your comfort zone, and no comfort in your growth zone. – Steve Clark
There is no doubt that 2020 has been challenging in many ways for all of us. Most recently, we have had difficult discussions about racism in the United States following the renewed attention on the Black Lives Matter movement. There is a great deal of pain and frustration being felt by many in our country. Our hearts go out to all who are hurting, especially those who have this pain added onto the heartache of the death of a child. We stand with you.
As hard as it can be to sit with the uncomfortable conversations of today, this represents an opportunity. When I was teaching nursing students, I loved to push them a little bit further – out of their comfort zone – because that is often where I was able to see them have a ‘light bulb’ moment when it all made sense, or the smile on their face because they were proud of accomplishing something new. It is how we grow. As a society, it is how we become better citizens and neighbors and make something positive come from something so negative.
This requires a lot of self-reflection personally and socially. It can be awkward and hard to face. The Black Lives Matter advocates are asking us to do the hard things – and we need to do this together. Unfortunately, the issue of racism is much bigger than any one person or situation. This can make it seem very overwhelming. But that reminds me of another problem that seems overwhelming at times – preventing stillbirth and neonatal death. We have to keep trying even though it is hard. We just have to work that much harder.
Star Legacy Foundation recognizes the complex nature of these issues – but we see a place where we can truly make a difference for thousands of black families. As we all know, this is not a new problem. Our organization has been addressing issues of racism in a variety of ways over the years. Last year, we were able to create the Stillbirth Scorecard for the United States and each state from 2017 data (most recent available from the CDC). One of the primary goals of this project was to highlight the racial disparity. Nationally, Black/African American women have a stillbirth rate double that of Hispanic, White, and Asian/Pacific Islander women. This rate (10.3/1,000 live births) is similar to rates seen in low income countries around the world. Sadly, because that is the average, Black women in many states have rates much higher than that. The highest stillbirth rates for Black women are:
Star Legacy Foundation is committed to expanding our efforts to reduce stillbirth rates for black women in the United States through our mission pillars: Research, Education, Awareness, Advocacy, and Family Support. This allows us to look at prevention and bereavement care holistically and address the many factors leading to this disparity. At the beginning of 2020, we created a Diversity and Inclusion Team that will guide our processes moving forward.
We know that making statements and showing support are incredibly important. But we also believe that actions and long-term dedication are essential for sustainable change. Our initial actions have been to expand our Diversity and Inclusion Team (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), the Board of Directors released a statement outlining our commitment, our website is now available in more languages, and we are doing a lot of listening and learning. We are prepared to have the hard conversations that are required.
Our next steps will be going through each of our current programs to identify opportunities for them to be more inclusive and/or modified to address racial concerns. The first programs to be evaluated will be the Pregnancy Research Project, Community Awareness, Support Groups, Champion Events, Education for Health Professionals, Family Education materials, and the Stillbirth Summit. Once that is underway, we will begin looking for opportunities to create new programs that will reduce the rates of stillbirth and improve bereavement care. Throughout this process, we will be seeking and embracing the differences and varied life experiences that make us human.
We know this will not be an easy process and we will make mistakes along the way. I can promise a genuine effort to be transparent and collaborative and we will do our best to make our actions intentional and visible. We know this won’t fix all of the issues at hand, but I do believe we can make a significant impact for thousands of Black families in the United States. I am grateful to everyone who has been willing to share their thoughts, ideas, passion, perspectives, and experiences with us. More are welcome and needed! I am also grateful to those of you who have provided us with grace to ensure our commitment is clear and sensitive to the larger issues.
This will be hard and it will be uncomfortable. But I believe we will grow and make our communities healthier and safer for Black Americans and all marginalized communities.