Community-Based Doula Program Named Health Equity Strategy in Washington State

May 4, 2016

Media Contacts:

Rachel Abramson – HealthConnect One

312-243-4772 (day) / 312-371-3761 (eve)


Dila Perera – Open Arms Perinatal Services

206-723-6868 (day)/ 206-412-4087 (eve)


Community-Based Doula Program Named Health Equity Strategy in Washington State


On April 6, 2016, after a competitive grant process, Open Arms Perinatal Services received state funding for their community-based doula program, making Washington the first state to support the Community-Based Doula program as an effective health equity strategy.

In a move which could have national implications, Thrive Washingtonincluded the HealthConnect One Community-Based Doula Program as one of eight eligible models to expand home visiting for families receiving TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Open Arms, which runs the first and only HealthConnect One accredited Community-Based Doula Program in the country, received one of the twelve awards only weeks after the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) published the program as a “best practice” on their Innovation Station.

“This funding opportunity represents a shift in health and early learning policy and philanthropy toward real community and parent engagement, and sends a clear message about racial equity,” said Rachel Abramson, Executive Director of HealthConnect One, which is based in Chicago.

Community-based doulas are women trained to provide peer support to other women in their communities throughout pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting. The transformative effect these doulas have was detailed in a federally funded study in 2014, which found that 87 percent of community-based doula clients were breastfeeding at six weeks, compared with 61 percent of a similar sample; 72 percent were still at it when their babies were three months old, compared with 48 percent of the broader sample.

This opportunity validates the diverse approach to home visiting in Washington State. Community-Based Doula programs around the country have been successfully serving TANF participants for over 2 decades—contributing equitable health outcomes for mothers and babies across the country. Open Arms will be able to expand services for TANF participants from Somali, Latino, and African American communities, as well as train community members to become community-based doulas.

“At a time when home visiting programs are working tirelessly to financially sustain their work in communities throughout the nation, it is encouraging to know that Washington State is sending a clear message about their commitment to support maternal-infant-health. The HealthConnect One Doula Model is an outstanding example of effective perinatal care. In fact, it is even more than maternity care. Their approach provides community care,” says Kiddada Green, Founding Executive Director of the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association in Detroit, and WKKF Community Leadership Network Fellow.

This public investment in a proven birth equity program is a tremendous step towards sustaining community-based support for families across the country.


HealthConnect One is the national leader in advancing respectful, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting:

Open Arms Perinatal Services is a unique nonprofit providing strong community-based support for women through pregnancy, birth and postpartum:

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