Promoting Effective and Respectful Communication with Ethnic Minority Women and Pregnant People



According to the Office for National Statistics, a quarter of women giving birth in England and Wales are estimated to be from minority ethnic groups. However, existing evidence shows that ethnic minority women have worse maternity health outcomes than White women. While overall maternal mortality rates have fallen over the past decade, evidence points to a widening gap in maternal mortality between women from different ethnic backgrounds. The Observatory’s recently published rapid evidence review of Ethnic Inequalities in Healthcare found “poor communication between women and providers was a prevalent theme.” Communication can be compromised for British-born ethnic minority women, women without English language skills and migrant women who can speak English. A lack of trust, insensitive behaviour, lack of active listening by providers, and failure to bridge cultural differences, can also impact negatively on communication for these women. 

Why this work is important  

According to the MBRRACE report 2020, Black British mothers are up to four times more likely than White mothers to die during pregnancy or within the first six weeks after childbirth. The risk of dying from pregnancy related causes is two times higher for mothers of mixed and Asian ethnicities than for White mothers. This profound inequality remains one of the persistent exemplars of racial health inequalities in the UK. Achieving optimal maternity care and excellent maternal health for Ethnic Minority women and pregnant people in the UK is essential.  


The scope of this work is to provide insights that will help to promote effective and respectful communication with ethnic minority women and pregnant people. The work will add new insights to already existing research. The work will focus on identifying barriers to culturally competent communication between maternal and neonatal services and ethnic minority women and pregnant people. The work will synthesise findings and identify what is missing in previous research, what can be done differently and look at new innovative approaches of both communicating with ethnic minority women and pregnant people, and ways of empowering them to advocate for themselves. The work will go beyond reviewing current literature, but also explore transferable approaches that have been used elsewhere.   

This will include looking at:  

  • What is being done that is working, or has worked, on a small (local) or large (national) scale.   
  • Examples of effective interventions, strategies, and approaches (including examples that have been published and evaluated and those that haven’t).   
  • What has not worked, what were the barriers and any lessons learnt.   

Project outputs 

The key deliverable for this work will be a report that includes an executive summary, comprehensive recommendations, and a lay summary. Additionally, the findings will be published as Infographics. 


The study began in April 2023 and is expected to conclude in spring 2024 

Further information 

For further information please contact Arnie Puntis (Research and Policy Manager) at