HealthConnect One Awarded NJ Department of Health Grant To Strengthen, Expand Community Doulas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE // August 26, 2021

Trenton, New Jersey – The New Jersey Department of Health today announced the award of a grant to HealthConnect One to develop a diverse community doula workforce to support women during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.

HealthConnect One will establish a Doula Learning Collaborative to increase the number of trained community doulas — professionals who provide culturally appropriate, social and emotional support to pregnant women throughout the prenatal period, labor and delivery, as well as the postpartum period. The Doula Learning Collaborative will also support doulas in engaging with multiple health systems and process Medicaid reimbursement claims for their services.

“Community doulas have the inherent local knowledge and understanding that enables them to provide culturally responsive care to our mothers during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “Doula care can lead to lower rates of maternal and infant health complications, fewer preterm births and low-birthweight infants, higher rates of breastfeeding, and so much more. Doulas amplify mothers’ voices and listen to their needs, ultimately improving birth outcomes for mothers and babies of color.”

The Doula Learning Collaborative is part of First Lady Tammy Murphy’s Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan released in January 2021. The goal of the plan is to reduce New Jersey’s maternal mortality by 50 percent over five years and eliminate racial disparities in birth outcomes. It is a culmination of more than a year of in-person and virtual meetings with more than 100 critical stakeholders including national public health experts, New Jersey state departments and agencies, health systems, physicians, doulas, community organizations, and mothers and families.

“Research demonstrates that support from a doula is associated with lower caesarian section rates, fewer obstetric interventions, fewer complications, and the improved health of mothers and babies after delivery,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

HealthConnect One, based in Chicago, IL., is a national leader in advancing birth equity and has a 35-year history of collaborating with communities to support under-resourced Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities and birthing families to achieve positive health outcomes.

Currently, there are approximately 79 doulas that were trained and certified through Department of Health pilot programs and another 150 to 200 private practice doulas working independently in the state.

The Department of Health, Division of Family Health Services Reproductive and Perinatal Health Services awarded the grant after a competitive request for proposals was issued in March. The review committee agreed the firm could successfully create a diverse community doula workforce by implementing and recruiting a diverse Advisory Board; provide training, clinical supervision, technical support, leadership development, and advocacy for doulas, and develop a plan for the Doula Learning Collaborative.

The organization’s contract for $450,000 is for one year with the possibility of continuation of funding for two additional years based on performance in prior years and availability of funds.

For more information on Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan, please visit https://nj.gov/governor/admin/fl/nurturenj.shtml

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

Philanthropy Can Make a Difference in Helping Black and Brown Mothers Survive Childbirth

Read – Philanthropy Can Make a Difference in Helping Black and Brown Mothers Survive Childbirth

“When we started our work supporting mothers to assure they had healthy births, we were often asked, What’s a doula? Now most people know a doula is a trained professional who provides extended, intensive peer-to-peer support to mothers and families throughout pregnancy, during labor and birth, and into the early postpartum period.

“Even with this greater understanding, we are still a long way from achieving equity in making sure all women have access to care. It is shameful that the United States has the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality of any developed country. These appalling statistics are due in part to the disproportionate number of women of color, particularly black women, who experience poor maternal health outcomes.

“To improve these outcomes, we need greater investments in maternal and child health from philanthropy and the government. Policy makers, public-health officials, and philanthropists need to understand that for our nation as a whole to be healthy and to thrive, we need to ensure that every baby, mother, and family has access to support for healthy pregnancies, births, and childhood development.

“Every day, we hear stories of black and Latina mothers and babies who die or experience near-fatal complications during childbirth. More often than not, these mothers tell us they experience blatant disrespect and disregard from medical staff. To add to the health detriments, they are typically discouraged from breastfeeding their children, even though breastfeeding has been shown to boost infants’ immune systems, protect them against allergies, and provide critical skin-to-skin contact.

“Increasingly, as public figures like Serena Williams and Beyoncé have spoken out about their own harrowing experiences with pregnancy and childbirth, more people have become aware of the diminished maternal-health outcomes mothers of color are more likely to experience.

“Black mothers are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. And black babies are more than twice as likely to die during their first year of life than white babies . . . ”

Published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, April 2019

by Toni Hill from the Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project (NEMS) and Tikvah Wadley
from HealthConnect One