April 11–April 17 is Black Maternal Health Week, a week dedicated to amplifying the stories of Black mothers and elevating effective policies and solutions to eliminate racism, bias, and inequities in maternal care. To celebrate Black Maternal Health Week, Ready, Set, Soar Ohio has invited members of the Ready, Set, Soar coalition to participate in a Black maternal health Q&A. Throughout the week, we will be sharing Q&A articles featuring different experts on a range of topics related to Black maternal health.
Q: What does access to health care look like for Black mothers in your community?
Access can be challenging for anyone with limited resources or stability in their lives. At CelebrateOne, we serve as an umbrella organization to collaborate with agencies who provide needed family planning and health services.
We conduct outreach and communication with our partners to connect moms to doula and prenatal services. We hire and train women from our neighborhoods to reflect our community and provide support to moms, as many of our staff have been through pregnancy and utilization of our resources.
Our team provides direct access to providers, resources, and services needed for pregnant and parenting moms. We connect moms-to-be and new moms with a Community Health Worker within CelebrateOne who helps navigate the pregnancy and first year of life journey. Partnerships with local hospitals and doula services are another piece of access CelebrateOne focuses on with women of color.
Q: What resources are available to Black mothers-to-be and new mothers?
Many community resources are available within Franklin County and the surrounding neighborhoods, but educating and communicating to our neighborhoods is critical to getting pregnant and parenting moms what they need.
CelebrateOne serves as a backbone to other non-profits and organizations who help to-be and new moms. Some of the partnerships include Moms2B, POEM, ROOTT, Little Bottoms Free Store, Cribs4Kids, Safe Sleep Training, and educational support the help moms understand the best practices and methods for caring for newborns and themselves. For example, POEM has a specific program for Black moms called Rise. It is supported by and for Black moms throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period.
The role of CelebrateOne is to help walk moms through each step, align them with the right fit program and be there to give moms a warm hand off. Celebrate One has city and state supported funding driven by specific goals, metrics, and a focus around how many Black women are served.
Q: How does your organization work within the community to ensure Black mothers have access to the resources and care they need during pregnancy and beyond?
Using Community Health Workers (CHW) or Connectors to canvas neighborhoods, attend community events, and partner with organizations focused on preconception, pregnancy, and the postpartum period resources is one of the main ways CelebrateOne provides access.
CelebrateOne holds four area coalition meetings with neighborhood organizations each month to share detail of community events, giveaways of supplies and food, housing stability resources, and overall mental and emotional support services. Coalition meetings are to bring partners together to help break the barriers in the community, to make it easier for moms to access their services.
Many people, agencies, and non-profits come together to provide resources and support to ensure a healthy pregnancy for both mom and baby. The goal is to start to “even the playing field” with social determinants of health and stability.
Other methods for securing access and providing information is with robust communication and marketing messages. This is done through social, email, website, radio/TV media, and print media. Keeping our contact information and number in the public eye helps to communicate not only to pregnant and new moms, but anyone who cares for a baby.
Q: From your perspective, where are we as a state when it comes to Black maternal health?
There was progress made in the overall number of infant dying, but the gap between non-Hispanic Black babies and non-Hispanic white babies passing away is too great. Many systematic issues relating to equity and meeting the basic needs of families just because of race or color are not addressed effectively enough to close the gap with infant mortality.
We are not where we want/need to be, but at a local level these are a few things we are doing to help with state level changes. For example, the Mayor of Columbus declared racism as a public health crisis and Columbus Public Health created a Center for Innovation, which we partner with them to address our racial disparity. How we leverage our Lead Entities and Coalition partners with a focus on Black Maternal Health is important to changing outcomes. We ask them to review and change some of their policies and procedures to help us reduce the racial disparity.
We need to work, not only as a city or county, but as an entire state to figure out solutions that work and replicate successful strategies. The work is great, but the passion and dedication of so many is greater. It can be done with lots of perseverance and determination to make an impact.
If we come together as a team to improve these results, it will come.
Q: What will it take to get where we need to be? What are things that policymakers, government agencies, and health care providers must do to address racial disparities in maternal health?
It will take a great deal of intentional focus and collaboration from everyone. Working together to understand where policies and processes are not supportive of equity is something that continues to be issue. If we educate each other on how important it is to listen and uncover what specifically is not working, it will begin to impact change and tolerance.
Racism is still a major issue in our neighborhoods, city, state, and nation. Starting with simple steps such as having the racism conversation (which we are in our coalition meetings), mandating doctor’s offices (doctors, nurses, front desk staff, techs) to take a racial bias course are just a few ways to help people understand what is happening in our society. We need to ask agencies, companies, and the community to help dismantle the racism and sexism can start to help make changes.
We need to:
Listen to Black women
Expand paid family and medical leave
Provide Medicaid coverage for doulas for low-income women
Extend pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage for up to a year following delivery
Expand protections for pregnant worker
Commitment from policymakers, agencies, and providers is one piece of the puzzle needed to close the gap. It will take planning and a deliberate strategy to ensure the tactics will change the outcomes. The more people who truly understand racial disparities are a public health crisis, the more successful we will be in finding solutions to reduce maternal health issues.
CelebrateOne is dedicated to helping pregnant women and new moms in need have a healthy pregnancy and first year so every child has a chance to celebrate turning one. Learn more about CelebrateOne at www.columbus.gov/Celebrate-One/.