SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s Black Maternal Health Week and Springfield hosted a celebration at city hall to educate the community and bring awareness to the health of black moms and the support needed to end disparities.

Tuesday, Springfield Mayor Sarno and Mayoral Aide, Shenell Ford hosted a Black Maternal Health Week celebration hoping to educate the community and bring attention and action to improve maternal health for black moms.

Heart2Heartbeat Lactation Founder, Shenell Ford says, “Black mothers are dying at three times the rate as their white counterparts as well as the infant mortality rates are that much bigger. Even when we look at lactation women that are birthing black babies, they are less likely to breastfeed.”

According to the CDC, these disparities exist because of structural racism, variation in quality healthcare, chronic medical conditions and implicit bias, which makes it harder for people of color to have fair opportunities for their economic, social and emotional health.

“They sometimes don’t know or a lot of times they don’t have the support. We’re there to hold their hand and get them through it , answer their questions, help them understand what’s going on with their body and what the doctors are saying,” says Laconia Fennell of Doula.

According to Mayor Sarno, two out of three pregnancy related deaths are preventable. Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner, Helen Caulton-Harris recommends that black moms empower themselves, use their voice, and think about adequate prenatal care in the first trimester.

“Make sure you stop physicians and say I don’t understand give me additional information. This is your health, this is your baby and its up to us to make sure we are putting ourselves first,” says Caulton-Harris.

Caulton- Harris says Springfield will continue to celebrate other maternal child health weeks, and public health focusing on intervention, prevention and treatment.