Black ExperienceHealth

New App Aims to Battle Bias in Maternity Care

Irth, a new app that fashions itself as “the Yelp for the health equity movement,” recently debuted at the MIT’s Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon, with the goal of letting consumers read reviews of doctors and hospitals by people of similar backgrounds.

Irth is touted as the app used by tennis star Serena Williams and all mothers of color who felt belittled, unheard or ignored during the birthing process.

“Irth is birth, but we dropped the B for bias,” said Kimberly Seals Allers, a nationally recognized maternal and infant health advocate who developed the concept for the app after her own experiences. “I read several reviews and received great recommendations from my White girlfriends. This was supposedly a top-rated hospital. But my own birth experience as a college-educated, unwed, Black woman left me feeling traumatized and disrespected.

“Then I realized that other Black and brown women had similar experiences, even at the ‘best’ hospitals,” she said. “It was clear to me that not all types of people experience the same hospital in the same way.”

Irth collects birth experiences and allows users to enter information about themselves, including race, class, gender identification and sexual orientation, to find a detailed hospital review and rating from someone similar to them.

“A review from a middle-class White woman does not necessarily help a low-income Black woman, a transgender person or a same-sex couple understand what their experience may be like,” Seals Allers said. “With Irth, you tell us exactly who you are and we find a review and rating from a person just like you.”

Seals Allers said that compelling research proves that implicit bias — including race, class, gender identification and even sexual orientation — can affect the one’s level of care received.

Bias in medical care has been specifically linked to the country’s high infant and maternal mortality rates, The New York Times recently reported.

In a Vogue article, Williams shared how she almost died after her own health directives were repeatedly ignored.

Until now there had been no consumer application to capture and share experiences of bias from actual patients, according to Irth.

“Collecting the intersectional experiences of birth at U.S. hospitals, gives us the data to push for social change and greater accountability.” Seals Allers said. “We are building a community of Irth-ers who stand up for bias-free care.”

Irth’s operators said it will also feature unique content and expand to cover pediatricians, OB/GYNs and other health care professionals.

Irth, a project of the nonprofit Narrative Nation, works to shift the narrative of health disparities with community-powered storytelling, media and technology.

The 2018 Hackathon, held April 27-29 at the MIT Media Lab in Boston, drew hundreds of engineers, parents, designers, doctors and companies from around the world to improve the technologies and experience of breastfeeding technologies.

“We are honored to have the prestigious MIT community working on Irth during the Hackathon,” Seals Allers said.

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Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s millennial publication. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, she attended Howard University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. A proud southern girl, her lineage can be traced to the Gullah people inhabiting the low-country of South Carolina. The history of the Gullah people and the Geechee Dialect can be found on the top floor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In her spare time she enjoys watching either college football or the Food Channel and experimenting with make-up. When she’s not writing professionally she can be found blogging at www.sarafinasaid.com. E-mail: Swright@washingtoninformer.com Social Media Handles: Twitter: @dreamersexpress, Instagram: @Sarafinasaid, Snapchat: @Sarafinasaid

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