Undoing Racism to Improve Birth Outcomes in Rochester

Last week, HealthConnect One joined Finger Lakes Performing Provider System, Finger Lakes Community Health, and the Healthy Baby Network launched the Rochester Doula Hub. This timely collaboration will provide culturally reflective community-based doula support to improve Black birth outcomes in Rochester.

Health inequities have long been tied to racism, poverty, physical environment, and stress, all outcomes linked to racism. Recently published data links racism, specifically redlining practices, to higher preterm births in Rochester, NY. These policies, which were in effect until the 1960s, resulted in decades of community disinvestment and high poverty in inner-city neighborhoods while denying Rochester residents the ability to build intergenerational wealth through homeownership.

Researchers identified preterm births (less than 37 weeks) by zip code, demographic characteristics of individuals, including race, and community survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau on income, poverty, and educational attainment. 

Nearly 13% of preterm births occurred in zip-codes labeled “hazardous” compared to 7.55% in areas marked “best” or “still desirable.” Birthing people who resided in “hazardous” areas also had a higher risk for other maternal complications, such as pregnancy-related hypertension, neonatal complications, and neonatal intensive care unit admission.

HealthConnect One’s partnership to co-develop the Black Doula Collaborative comes off the heals of our community-based doula model’s astounding results for nearly three decades. The culturally reflective, community-rooted support provided by doulas trained through our model will improve birth outcomes in Rochester, especially for Black babies and birthing people experiencing racism and adverse effects. 

This week, HealthConnect One team members will engage with doulas from Rochester utilizing HealthConnect One’s proven “train the trainer” model. The program, which will be based at Healthy Baby Network and Finger Lakes Community Health, will hire, onboard, and train doulas, including 16 community-based training sessions. FLPPS will fund six full-time equivalent doulas, which will serve 250 Black and Brown women. The program will develop referral pathways with healthcare systems and federally qualified health centers to facilitate care.

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Innovating Doula Program to Address Racial Disparities

Innovating Doula Program to Address Racial Health Disparities

Doulas play a crucial role in combating the discrimination, racism, and loss of autonomy that
Black and Brown birthing people experience due to historical disinvestment.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE // September 29, 2021

Through its System Transformation and Community Investment Program, Finger Lakes Performing Provider System (FLPPS) is partnering with Healthy Baby Network, HealthConnect One, and Finger Lakes Community Health on a two-year initiative to innovate Healthy Baby Network’s Black Doula Collaborative, which will improve the health and well-being of women, infants, and birthing families.

The program will identify and train individuals who are trusted members of the community to provide doula services and help improve: prenatal care, raise breastfeeding rates, decrease unnecessary medical interventions, increase positive birth experiences, and improve parenting skills.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Rochester and Finger Lakes region maternal mortality is 51% higher for black moms than for white moms. Infant mortality is 300% higher for black babies than for white babies, according to the CDC.

Utilizing HealthConnect One’s proven “train the trainer” model, the program based at Healthy Baby Network and Finger Lakes Community Health will hire, onboard, and train doulas, which includes 16 community-based training sessions. FLPPS will fund six full-time equivalent doulas, which will serve 250 Black and Brown women. The program will develop referral pathways with healthcare systems and federally qualified health centers to facilitate care.

“I’m thrilled that FLPPS is partnering with these reputable organizations across the region that have deep expertise in addressing disparities. This innovative Doula program will provide vital support to ensure patient-centered care and better outcomes for mothers and babies in the Finger Lakes region,” said Carol Tegas, Executive Director of FLPPS.

“HealthConnect One’s community-based doula reputation program has achieved astounding results for nearly three decades, and we are proud to co-develop the Black Doula Collaborative with our partners in Rochester. Through our decades of experience, we know how critical culturally reflective, community-rooted doula support is for improving outcomes for Black babies and birthing people,” said Dr. Twylla Dillion, Executive Director of HealthConnect One.” With the workforce development elements of this program, we will build new career pathways for women from under-resourced communities where the need for doula support is greatest. Legislatively, there is a lot of motion nationally and within NYS to develop sustainable funding for community-based doulas through Medicaid doula reimbursement. This project will provide additional evidence in support of community-rooted doula support.”

“Healthy Baby Network’s Board and Staff are proud to partner with HealthConnect One, Finger Lakes Community Health, and the Finger Lakes Performing Provider System to innovate our Black Doula Collaborative as a hub for training Black Women to be Doulas and continuing to expand their work with health providers to bring lifesaving care and support for vulnerable Black pregnant and parenting women and their families,” said Sherita Bullock, Executive Director of Healthy Baby Network. “THIS is how we reduce and work to eliminate preventable Black Maternal Mortality and Morbidity in Rochester, NYS, and beyond.”

“We are excited to be a part of this work with FLPPS and our regional partners. Doulas provide emotional and physical support to our pregnant Moms who can be vulnerable to problems in pregnancy and birth. This program will positively benefit so many women in our region and help to ensure healthy maternal outcomes,” said Mary Zelazny, CEO of Finger Lakes Community Health.

Who We Are:

Finger Lakes Performing Provider System (FLPPS) is a network of clinical and community-based organizations across a 13-county region who work together to improve the Medicaid healthcare delivery system and support high-risk individuals and populations.

Healthy Baby Network ensures that every parent in our community has the information and support needed to bring a healthy baby into a nurturing home. Healthy Baby Network has 25 years of experience focused on a community-centered approach to supporting Black and Brown families during the perinatal period.

HealthConnect One is a nationally recognized leader employing community-based approaches to provide customized birth worker coaching, training, technical assistance, and program development services to our partners in the field of maternal and child health to support under-resourced communities and families.

Finger Lakes Community Health is a federally qualified health center serving the Finger Lakes region, providing comprehensive healthcare including medical, dental, behavioral, and reproductive health services.

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Media Contact: Zainab Sulaiman, HealthConnect One Director of Communications & Advocacy
Tel: (202)440-1576 Email: zsulaiman@healthconnectone.org