New Harvey center fights racial disparities in Black women's health care from pregnancy on

HARVEY, Ill. (WLS) -- Racial inequality often begins before birth. The rate of maternal mortality for Black women is six times higher than other races here in Chicago. While the problem has been well-documented, solutions have been elusive.

A facility in Harvey is focused on protecting Black women and their babies, and ABC7 Chicago got an exclusive look inside.

"So what we've realized, historically, over the years, is that African American women have not really been at the forefront when it comes to maternity issues," said Dr. Lisa Green, CEO and co-founder of Family Christian Health Center.

RELATED: Black maternal mortality rate 6 times higher than other women's in Chicago, Harvey doctor says

Dr. Green is working to change that with a brand new maternal wellness center in south suburban Harvey. The center is focused on providing complete care for Black women and children.

"The first thing we have to do is acknowledge that they exist. Right, that's the first thing we have to acknowledge, that when women come in, that there are challenges that are pre conditioned, before they come to the door," Green said. "The second thing that we have to do is listen."

"Our demographic we need it more than anyone right now," said Shanice Williams, patient and coordinator for Healthy Baby Network. "Harvey, as you know, is a poverty stricken community. We don't have access to resources, and being able to bring the state of the art technology as well as physicians right here in our back yard is what this community needs to help reduce some of the maternal mortality."

Williams is a mother of two. Both she and her sons were cared for by physicians at the Family Christian Health Center. Williams welcomed her second son Enzo two months ago and said the educational resources and her connection with her doctors made all the difference.

"Finding somebody who can understand me, and understand some of the things that go through, understand some of our fears and who will be able to listen to me and understand what's needed as a patient," she said.

"Black women that are taken care of by other Black health care professionals have better outcomes," said Dr. Green. "And so our goal here is not just for women that are pregnant, but is even that pre-pregnancy state, right, women that are, you know, trying to talk about family planning, you know, things like that. Then we will have women here that can get prenatal care."

The care continues well after babies, seeing women through menopause and beyond; the kind of care Green says Black women need and deserve.

"I'm so excited, right, and so I'm trying not to be emotional," she said. "The fact that the community has trusted us for 20 years to go from point A to point B and now to have this opportunity to really create an ecosystem that allows women to have a successful pregnancy."

February was a soft launch to get care underway. The complete opening will come in April.
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