Understanding Transportation Challenges for Black Pregnant Women in Western Massachusetts

Roberts Team Photos

From left: Favorite Iradukunda (Nursing), Lindiwe Sibeko (Nutrition), Lucinda Canty (Nursing) and Shannon Roberts (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering).

Why are Black women three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women? This study explores the critical link between maternal health disparities and transportation challenges. Our multidisciplinary team, comprising engineering, nursing, and public health experts, delves into the experiences of Black pregnant women in Western Massachusetts, shedding light on mobility barriers and advocating for inclusive interventions.

Research shows that 80% of maternal deaths are preventable. So, when Black women are three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than White women, it begs the question: is this problem medical in nature, societal, or a blend of the two?

Late access to prenatal care is associated with higher maternal mortality rates, as well as other serious complications for both mother and child. While improving access to quality care has long been proposed as a solution to racial disparities in maternal health, an important aspect of accessibility is often overlooked: transportation.

Given previous research showing that lack of transportation is a common barrier to prenatal care, we see an urgent need to understand Black women’s experiences with this issue. What challenges do Black women face in terms of mobility, and how does this impact their ability to access care?

In this multidisciplinary project, researchers from engineering, nursing, and public health backgrounds will collaborate to make sense of this critical issue. Our research will include interviews, ride-alongs, and data analysis to comprehensively investigate the experiences of Black pregnant women in Western Massachusetts.

This approach, based on community participation, will ensure the central role of Black women’s voices, and hopefully build lasting relationships. We will share our findings with the community, local agencies, and transportation providers to inform future interventions. Ultimately, we hope to use our findings in future research focused on addressing transportation barriers for Black pregnant women, improving their access to care, and reducing maternal morbidity and mortality.

A drawing from Lindiwe Sibeko

Image credit: Amazing original artwork by Lindiwe Sibeko