Wednesday, April 24, 2024
HomeCulture WarIll-health, not racism, raises maternity risk

Ill-health, not racism, raises maternity risk


IT’S easy to criticise or ridicule Diane Abbott, but as Rod Liddle can do it so much better than anyone else, I shan’t even try. But if it were only Ms Abbott, David Lammy and other assorted hustlers insisting everything is racist, one could put them in the loony left corner and keep a quiet eye on them. Sadly, this irrational idea pathogen has become much more widespread.

Parliament’s worst committee, the Commons Women and Equality Select Committee (WESC), provided a recent example of this idiocy with a report which noted higher maternal death rates amongst Asian and black women. Although the reasons were ‘not fully understood’, the committee concluded that ‘the Government and NHS leadership have underestimated the extent to which racism plays a role’. Radio 4’s Today programme, always delighted to have an opportunity to insinuate that Britain is a racist country, headlined with the story. The only problem is that it’s not true, something evident to anyone who bothers to read the report.

The WESC state confidently that figures ‘have shown a greater risk for mothers from ethnic minority backgrounds, compared to White mothers.’ Quoting numbers for 2018-20, the report states that the death rate amongst white mothers (nine per 100,000) is lower than for Asian (16 per 100,000) and black mothers (34 per 100,000). The report from which these figures are taken also shows (Table 2.10 if you’re looking) that the death rate for mixed-race mothers is 12 per 100,000 and only eight per 100,000 for Chinese women, two figures missing from the committee’s report, suggesting there’s something other than race involved here.

Omitting figures that don’t fit the narrative is a good way to ensure you get the answer you want. You can also choose how to categorise the data to reach the desired conclusion; why being Chinese is deemed worthy of not being treated as part of the Asian category isn’t clear. WESC’s report also chose not to see the wide variety in death rates according to the mother’s country of birth (see below), which doesn’t fit the racism narrative.

Source: Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care, MBRRACE-UK, November 2022 (Table 2.12)

The wilful blindness of the committee continues. While claiming that the reasons for different maternal death rates are not fully understood, their report states that 60 per cent of the women who died had pre-existing health conditions; in other words, we know the main reason for maternal deaths and it isn’t racism. Buried in the small print of footnote 34, the report states that ‘rates of pre-existing diabetes were highest for women from South Asian and Black ethnic groups (1.4 per cent and 1.3 per cent respectively) when compared with women from White ethnic groups (0.6 per cent).  Rates of pre-existing hypertension were similar for women from White and Other ethnic groups (0.5 per cent), slightly higher for South Asian women (0.6 per cent) and considerably higher for women from Black ethnic groups (1.9 per cent).’ Hypertension in pregnancy is known to be a substantial risk for maternal death as well as for baby deaths, both before and after birth.

So what evidence of racism in maternity services did WESC uncover? One witness referenced a report which found that more than 42 per cent of women surveyed reported ‘feeling’ discriminated against during their maternity care. Another witness had ‘heard’ about black and brown women feeling deeply unsafe during their maternity care. Strangely, the report didn’t find space to note the findings in the NHS’s 2022 maternity survey which found that for eight of 16 selected maternity themes, black women reported significantly better experiences on average and there were no cases where black women reported significantly worse experiences on average across the 16 themes.  

Bearing in mind Peter Hitchens’s law that the main purpose of surveys is usually not to gauge opinion but to influence it, everything in the paragraph above should take second place to hard data. And one piece of hard data missing from WESC’s report is obesity. The risk of maternal death increases with obesity, primarily because obesity causes the medical comorbidities (including diabetes and hypertension) which raise the risk of death. The government’s data on weight reports 72 per cent of adults from black ethnic groups as overweight or living with obesity – the highest percentage of all ethnic groups. The ethnic group with the least overweight (37.5 per cent) were the Chinese who, as noted above, also have the lowest maternal death rate.

The Government has noted the correlation and is introducing guidance which will see doctors and midwives alert all women with a body mass index (BMI) of over 25 (the threshold for being considered overweight) of the dangers to themselves and their babies and how they can reduce these risks.

The WESC’s report makes no mention of obesity in its report. It states that ‘fixating on any one cause risks over-simplifying the problem and placing blame on the very women who are most at risk’, a convenient way of avoiding addressing the issue. It can’t admit that obesity is a key risk to pregnant women’s health as it has swallowed the science-denying nonsense of ‘body positivity’. As I wrote in April 2021, WESC produced a ridiculous report on body image, which proclaimed that ‘the use of BMI inspires weight stigma . . . and contributes to eating disorders, and disrupts people’s body image and mental health. Public Health England should stop using BMI as a measure of individual health, and instead focus on a “Health at Every Size” approach.’ As TCW noted in March this year, the refusal to talk honestly about the health impacts of obesity remains.

Yetthere is no better message to give a pregnant woman on action she can take to improve her and her baby’s health. The WESC would rather ignore the medical evidence on the dangers of obesity and frighten every non-white woman that pregnancy means engaging with a system that might contain structural racism and treat her as a second-class citizen, despite not offering a scintilla of credible evidence that it exists. Analysis by King’s College London found that Britain is one of the least racist countries. That won’t matter to WESC and anyone else possessed by wokeness, who will select the facts that confirm their preconceptions and ignore everything else.

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Vlod Barchuk
Vlod Barchuk
Vlod Barchuk is a former accountant, former Tory councillor and current chairman of Ealing Central and Acton Conservative Party Association.

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