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City Initiates Effort to Reduce Issues for Black Expectant Mothers

Maryland

Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 9/28/2017, 10:14 a.m.
Baltimore has opened a new front in its effort to give Black newborns the same chances of surviving infancy as ...

Baltimore has opened a new front in its effort to give Black newborns the same chances of surviving infancy as white ones: training doulas to assist expectant mothers during pregnancy, delivery and afterward, reports the Washington Post. The initiative is the latest salvo in the Baltimore City Health Department’s seven-year-old effort to combat high mortality rates among Black newborns. “The impetus for this program is the huge disparity in infant mortality between Blacks and whites born in this city,” said Stacey Tuck, maternal and child health director at the department. Baltimore is not alone. New York, Chicago and Tampa have also used doula training programs to improve newborn health. Other cities may follow, according to Dale Kaplan of the Maternity Wise Institute, which conducts doula training in Baltimore. Other cities, including Denver, San Antonio and San Francisco, have contacted his organization to inquire about starting programs. The U.S. infant mortality rate among African Americans is more than twice as high as it is for white babies. “Doula” comes from a Greek term meaning “a woman who helps.” Although doulas are trained to assist expectant mothers through labor, delivery and beyond, they are not medical providers, as midwives are. Dona International, which calls itself the largest doula-certifying organization in the world, said doulas help mothers achieve “the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.” African American women have a long history with doulas, particularly during the Jim Crow era when hospitals denied access to black women, forcing many to deliver their children at home, said Andrea Williams-Salaam, a doula trainer in the Baltimore program.