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Reproductive justice and artificial intelligence.

Anna Buford
25 May 2021 · 3 min read
A newly delivered baby

Delfina creates innovative products at the intersection of healthcare and artificial intelligence, both of which carry painful histories of exclusion, sexism and white supremacy. In order for Delfina to move the needle on racial disparities in maternal mortality, we seek to understand how healthcare practice and innovation has historically disadvantaged women and other subordinated groups.

Reproductive justice presents a helpful framework to understand this landscape. Feminist scholars have introduced three methods of fighting reproductive oppression: reproductive rights, reproductive health, and reproductive justice. Delfina’s mission focuses on improving reproductive health by tackling the limitations and inequalities entrenched in the delivery of healthcare services.

Delfina is working to develop predictive software to prevent hypoxic injury and stillbirth, which are more prevalent for Black patients. A 2009 study from the National Center of Health Statistics with over 5 million singleton pregnancies estimated that Black pregnancies at 39-40 weeks gestation were 1.57 times more likely to result in stillbirths. Importantly, Black patients suffered stillbirths at 20+ weeks of gestation more frequently from pregnancy and labor conditions than white patients did, with complications in pregnancy and labor accounting for 30% of the hazard in Black patients compared to 20% of the risk in white and Hispanic patients. Labor related conditions (fever, placental abruption, cord abnormalities, placenta previa or other bleeding) contributed 17.49% increased hazard of stillbirth in Black patients but only 13.67% and 10.87% of stillbirth hazard in white and Hispanic patients, respectively. The study also found that 12 years of education was not a strong protective factor for Black women, despite reducing the stillbirth hazard 30% for white women. These results implicate other manifestations of structural racism, such as provider bias, patient acculturation, and other cultural and socioeconomic determinants in racial disparities in stillbirth hazard.

Delfina aims to investigate the causes of and reduce the number of preventable stillbirths. Delfina supports research and community organizations doing anti-racist work to actively reduce healthcare disparities. This includes centering the lived experiences of women of color and actively collaborating with stakeholders in BIPOC communities as we conduct research and develop our products. If you are a community health organization, we welcome the opportunity to partner with you.

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