Reading Response 2- NY Times/Structural Competency

Katie Pelay

Reading Response #2


For the second reading response, I am choosing to write about the New York Times article titled “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis” by Linda Villarosa. The article serves to show the unequal distribution of maternal and infant mortality of African-Americans in the United States. Villarosa uses the experiences of Simone Landrum as a case study within the article to personify the statistics that she includes. By including both statistics (facts/figures) and personal narrative, Villarosa gives credit to Simone Landrum and others’ similar experiences of being pregnant and black in America. Too often, black mothers’ pain is not believed leading to higher cases of maternal mortality. By using data gathered by experts, Villarosa is acknowledge and giving value to the experiences of these mothers. Vice versa, the personal narrative of Simone Landrum and her two complication-ridden pregnancies provide context for what the statistics represent in daily life.

Villarosa’s article is a call to action to improve the outcomes of Black women in America. In order to accomplish this, an approach that utilizes Metzl and Hansen’s structural competency is essential. They define structural competency as going beyond the previous cultural competency approach that reduced stigma in health care. The central belief of structural competency “is that inequalities in health are related to institutions and social conditions” (Metzl and Hansen 127). Structural competency urges health care professional to consider race, class, gender, and ethnicity as factors that reduce health outcomes. Metzl and Hansen focus on the need to go beyond cultural competency and introduce structural competency into health care. Villarosa exemplifies this by using personal narrative as a cultural approach to illustrate the stigmas present in her experiences. To booster her argument, she uses facts and figures as a structural approach to show readers that experiences like Simone Landrum’s are all too common and a result of inadequate infrastructure.



Villarosa, Linda. “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Apr. 2018,

Metzl, Johnathan M, and Helena Hansen. “Structural Competency: Theorizing a New Medical Engagement with Stigma and Inequality.” Social Science & Medicine , vol. 103, pp. 126–133., doi: