Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Ijeoma Opara

Second Advisor

Trace S. Kershaw


Background: The United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality of all developed nations which is largely due to vast racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes.1 To address the high rates of maternal mortality many states have implemented Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs) to identify the causes of pregnancy-related deaths and generate recommendations to reduce the number of maternal deaths. However, MMRCs have failed to adequately address the role that racism has in producing high rates of maternal mortality for Black women.Methods: This thesis employed a modified scoping review approach to chart the existing literature on MMRCs' work and their efforts to improve Black maternal health. This thesis utilized the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Extension for Scoping Reviews to guide article identification and data extraction and synthesis. Studies were qualitatively analyzed using an intersectional framework and key themes were identified and documented. Results: The search identified 28 articles published between 2004 and 2022. One quarter (25%) of the articles explicitly mentioned racism as having a contributory role in the deaths of Black mothers. The papers largely covered the topics of 1) the key components of a functioning MMRC and/or how to (re)establish an MMRC, 2) how to improve existing MMRCs’ functions and work, and 3) reviewing the recommendations established by MMRCs. Conclusions: Based on the existing literature, there is a major gap in MMRCs' work in addressing and explicitly stating racism's role in producing high rates of maternal mortality of Black mothers. MMRCs must take the necessary steps to tackle racism in maternal health by improving data collection, increasing collaborations with private organizations and advocacy groups, and better disseminating their findings and recommendations.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access