A passionate advocate for equity, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane.” His commitment to equality in health care inspired Christiana Care Health System’s inaugural Martin Luther King Speaker Series on Monday, January 21 at Wilmington Hospital, featuring keynote speaker Charles S. Johnson IV.

In 2016, Johnson’s wife Kira died due to complications following a routine scheduled C-section at a hospital in California. Following his wife’s death, Johnson launched 4Kira4Moms. The nonprofit is committed to reducing maternal mortality and raising awareness to prevent it.

“We can’t talk about this issue without having a substantive direct conversation about the racial disparities,” said Johnson. “As long as this is a problem, and as long as there’s breath in my body, and as long as people are willing to listen, I’m going to continue to tell Kira’s story and do whatever I can to make a difference.”

Welcoming speaker Charles Johnson (center) are: Chief Health Equity Officer Bettina Tweardy Riveros, Esq.; Diversity and Inclusion Director Dana Beckton; President and CEO Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH; Hugh R. Sharp Jr. Chair of Medicine LeRoi S. Hicks, M.D., MPH, FACP; and Senior Diversity and Inclusion Specialist Consuella Petty.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications. The risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women is three to four times higher than those of white women.

David Paul, M.D., leader of the Women & Children’s Service Line at Christiana Care, said the health system is working to further improve outcomes and make sure all care is equitable. Christiana Care leaders are working with the state of Delaware and community-based organizations to craft state and local policies and engage communities to tackle the causes of the differences between the outcomes for mothers of different races and income levels.

“All of us have an obligation to work on the upstream and neighborhood level factors that affect health,” said Dr. Paul. “I’m talking about neighborhood factors such as violence, education, transportation, nutrition, food security and those things that can ensure that women are healthy, and men are healthy throughout their life course.”

Christiana Care presented Charles Johnson, founder of 4Kira4Moms, pictured here with Dr. Janice Nevin, with the health system’s inaugural Martin Luther King Health Equity Award for his commitment to advocacy.

Johnson commended Christiana Care for discussing the difficult topic of maternal mortality.

“You all are leaning into this issue,” said Johnson. “Not only are you all leaning into this issue of maternal mortality, but you’re leaning into taking a comprehensive approach to health care beyond the walls of this hospital.”

Christiana Care’s Office of Health Equity sponsored the event. At its close, Diversity and Inclusion Director Dana Beckton presented Johnson with Christiana Care’s inaugural Martin Luther King Health Equity Award for his commitment to advocacy.