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A Content Analysis of Public Discourses on Maternal Health Inequalities in the U.S. Open Access

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Despite developments in medical technology and public health innovations, the United States continues to have significantly higher rates of maternal mortality when compared to other economically advanced countries. Specifically, African American women in the U.S. face a maternal mortality rate nearly three times that of white women. Furthermore, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (2018), nearly 60% of all pregnancy-related deaths that take place in the U.S. are preventable. Based on a content analysis of news coverage of trends between 2009 and 2019 in maternal health inequality in the U.S. from 111 articles across 6 major news/media outlets, this paper identifies three significant themes in public discourses surrounding issues of maternal health disparities: (1) overall, there were differences between news outlets in the frequency with which individual narratives were used to illustrate maternal health disparities; (2) acknowledgment of systemic racism as a contributor to adverse maternal health outcomes varied across news outlets; and (3) articles reporting on maternal health inequalities as structural and/or political phenomenon differed across news outlets. These findings provide meaningful insight into the way that media interprets and presents the variety of non-medical (particularly sociological) explanations for disparities in maternal health outcomes in the U.S.

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