Rep. Lauren Underwood (Courtesy photo)
Rep. Lauren Underwood (Courtesy photo)

Rep. Lauren Underwood, a freshman Democrat from Illinois and a registered nurse, will serve as a speaker for the second annual National Maternal & Infant Health Summit on Sept. 10 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in northwest D.C.

“Rep. Underwood has emerged on Capitol Hill as a leader in this field,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).

Underwood holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and two master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University. She served in the Obama administration as a senior adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services.

In the House, Underwood serves on the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions for the Committee on Education and Labor. She also serves on the Black Maternal Health Caucus.

Bowser, who will serve as the primary host for the summit, said more than 1,000 people are expected to attend the all-day event.

“The summit is an opportunity for elected officials, health officials and D.C. residents to explore strategies to improve perinatal health and address racial disparities in birth outcomes,” the mayor said.

According to the 2018 DC Perinatal Health and Infant Mortality Report, about half of Black women and more than one in three Hispanic women are not entering prenatal care until their second or third trimester or not receiving care at all.

According to America’s Health Ranking’s 2018 analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, about 36 women die for every 100,000 live births in the District, compared to 20.7 such deaths nationally. This data treats the District as a state and only four states have worse rates.

Bowser said the summit will consist of a panel discussion, a luncheon and workshops focused on successes from around the country that could serve as best practices. She said while the conference will be national in scope, local issues such as lack of access to obstetrics and gynecologists in the east end of the city will also be discussed.

“We will address places where people can get access to obstetricians and gynecologists,” Bowser said, acknowledging that Ward 8 residents don’t have immediate access to that field of medicine because the city government shuttered that unit at the United Medical Center in 2017. “There are other places in the city for those services.”

Bowser said her administration learned from last year’s summit and has instituted changes.

“We heard from feedback from last year’s participants and they wanted the chance to interact with each other,” she said. “We have also added workshops on food and food policy and tips on how mothers can eat healthy while pregnant. We have added a panel on dads and how can they contribute to healthy moms and babies.

“We will have an expo of sorts where Aetna, a primary sponsor, will offer information about mini-grants that are available and other government agencies and nonprofits will showcase their programs, too,” Bowser said.

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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