Shortly after her election to the council, my former colleague (and now rock star Congresswoman) Ayanna Pressley formed a new standing committee on our body: the Committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities.  I proudly served as AP’s Vice-Chair and assumed the Chairmanship once she joined Congress earlier this year.

In my time on the body, I’ve almost exclusively chaired the Committee on the Environment (which, for you fellow #bospoli nerds, began as the Committee on Environment and Health, followed by the Committee on Environment and Parks, then the Committee on the Environment and Sustainability, and now stands as the Committee on Environment, Sustainability, and Parks.  It goes without saying that I’m passionate about both the environment and the Oxford comma!

I’m truly honored to now chair these two great Committees.

What’s the benefit of chairing a Committee?

You can set the calendar for hearings, working sessions, and actions to be taken (unless it is an ordinance or law; that goes through the Government Operations Committee).

You can dive as deeply into learning about a given topic, studying the problems posed by that policy area, and working to address and fix those challenges.

My team and I have used the Chairmanship of the Environment Committee is a prime example of these benefits. We have worked to address one of the most consequential issues of our time, climate change, by focusing on city policies and initiatives that create sustainability, resiliency, and environmental justice while reducing our carbon footprint. We’ve had some big success stories, but we’re motivated by all the work still to do.

This week, I’m excited to introduce my first order for the Committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities. I will submit, along with Councilor Kim Janey, an order for a hearing on “Black Maternal Health, Racial and Gender Equity in the Healthcare System in the City of Boston,” Docket #0396.

Among developed countries, the United States has the highest rate of deaths from causes related to or aggravated by pregnancy.  Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that the maternal mortality rate for black women is 40 deaths per 100,000 births, compared to 12.4 per 100,000 births for white women. These statistics are frightening.

Massachusetts, as with many policy issues such as gun reform and education, leads nationally in maternal health. Yet the same racial disparities persist in our state and in our city. Recently, the Massachusetts State Health Assessment discovered that black mothers continue to have the most limited access to prenatal care. Moreover, the percentage of black mothers suffering from the symptoms of postpartum depression is three times higher than the percentage for white mothers in Massachusetts.

The purpose of the hearing is to convene all of the relevant stakeholders: hospitals, universities, public health institutions, community health centers, and, most importantly, Boston’s community leaders, who have been working on these issues for quite some time. We aim to hold an honest conversation on this issue, hear from women experiencing challenges in the healthcare system, learn from their stories, and address the social determinants of inequities in health.

I’m fully cognizant that we can’t solve this problem with one hearing, but we can certainly begin to address it, and hopefully set the stage for reducing health disparities in the future. Let’s get to work.