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“The Impact of Generational Trauma on Genetic Expression: Effects on Black Maternal Health Outcomes”

Author: Ivana Valencia

Department: UIC Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement

Advisor: Dr. Joseph K. Hoereth, IPCE

Abstract: In 2021, the maternal mortality rate in the US was 32.9 per 100,000 (CDC, 2022). When compared to other developed nations, the US ranks among the highest when it comes to maternal mortality. When examining the data from a racial lens, significant disparities impacting non-Hispanic Black women also become evident. The maternal mortality rate for Non-Hispanic Black women has risen from 37.3 per 100,000 in 2018 to 69.9 in 2021 (CDC, 2023). The two-part study provides a literature review exploring how scholars study the relationship between epigenetics, historical determinants, and the Black maternal health crisis. A policy analysis of current federal and state legislations addressing poor maternal mental health outcomes is also examined to determine the actions that are currently taking place to address this crisis and the work that still needs to be completed. The scope of this research is broad, spanning historical determinants, epigenetic factors, and the life course perspective, aiming to provide a holistic comprehension of the intricate challenges faced by non-Hispanic Black women during and after pregnancy. Findings suggest that, while some states do have policies that attempt to address this disparity, a lack of proper implementation and awareness decreases their intended effect. Federally, the most significant policies and legislations are not receiving the necessary support aggravating the current crisis. Potential policy recommendations include community accompaniment models to improve maternal health outcomes which include pre- and post-partum support, in addition to an integration of traditional and alternative forms of maternal and child healthcare.

Keywords: Epigenetics, Maternal Mortality, Maternal and Child Health, Historical Determinants of Health, Life-course model, Health Equity, Health Policy.