(WHTM) — Physicians and state lawmakers are coming together to tackle health disparities mothers of color face and honoring Black Maternal Health Week.

“Many of us have just started the conversations about health disparities,” Dr. Sharee Livingston, an OB-GYN at UPMC Lititz, said.

Livingston did not have an easy path to her career in Medicine.

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“As a person of color, I grew up in the inner city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the pathways weren’t laid down for me,” Livingston said.

Now, Livingston works as an OB-GYN and chairs the OB-GYN department at UPMC Lititz.

“I never forgot the real issue which is health disparities,” she said.

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Health report, Black women are more than two times as likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women.

“Most of those are preventable, we can change those,” Livingston said.

She said there are many reasons for the gap, including racism and historic inequalities, but there are solutions.

“Fund programs that are addressing the issues that we’re looking to reverse and pair up with communities, community organizations that are doing these things,” she said.

Legislation is also an important piece. Livingston said there are a few Pennsylvania House bills that could help address health disparities, including a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage for doulas. Doulas are non-medical assistants who help families through the experience of having a baby.

“If you have a doula, you were less likely to end up with a C-section, you were less likely to suffer from postpartum depression,” Livingston said.

Another bill offers protections for pregnant women in jail, sponsored by Representative Mike Jones (R-York County).

“It’s a harsh environment for anybody but particularly for women,” Jones said.

Jones’ bill would ban shackling and solitary confinement for pregnant women, among other restrictions, which often impact Black mothers.

“I don’t think we can continue to ignore that demographic,” he said.

Livingston said these bills are part of the long-term solution: making sure health care providers listen to the communities they serve

“We should not be having conversations about solutions without bringing the people to the table that the issues are impacting,” she said.