By Sharon Muza, CD/BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE
Introduction to Black Maternal Health Week
April is Minority Health Month in the United States. Minority Health Month is a “month-long initiative to advance health equity across the country on behalf of all racial and ethnic minorities.” Within Minority Health Week, April 11th through 17th is the second annual Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW). Black Maternal Health Week was founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) and they have created and coordinated a very successful awareness campaign whose purpose is to:
- “Deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health in the US;
- Amplify community-driven policy, research, and care solutions;
- Center the voices of Black Mamas, women, families, and stakeholders;
- Provide a national platform for Black-led entities and efforts on maternal health, birth and reproductive justice; and
- Enhance community organizing on Black maternal health.”
Many national perinatal organizations have joined Black Mamas Matter Alliance as sponsors in order to support the BMMA’s efforts in raising awareness for immediate change on the national level as well as in local communities all across the United States. Black parents are three to four times more likely to die during the childbearing year than their white counterparts. The reason for this is clear. It is racism.
Birth and postpartum doulas, regardless of their race, their location, their background, and their professional goals can play a critical role in supporting efforts to raise awareness and focus attention on the needs and services that help black families and result in better birth outcomes.
Black Mamas Matter Alliance Resources
Black Mamas Matter Alliance has created and compiled an amazing number of resources for people to easily access in order to get involved. Please access the Black Mamas Matter Alliance Toolkit. On the toolkit are sample social media posts to help raise awareness along with shareable graphics. Local events can be looked up state by state in order to participate in the communities where you live.
Register for two free webinars on Black Maternal Health topics
You can plan to attend the BMHW19 webinar on Decolonizing Research in Black Maternal Health taking place on April 12th at 3 PM EST by registering here for this free event. The webinar is focused on highlighting gaps in data to accurately assess maternal health outcomes and quality of care for Black Mamas, and the need to recognize Black Women’s scholarship in maternal health research.
Additionally, there is a second webinar to discuss BMMA’s policy priorities for Black Mamas and hear from BMMA’s Kindred Partner organizations working on Black Maternal Health policy issues in different states. This Maternal Health Policies Priorities for Black Mamas webinar is April 15th at 3 PM EST. Register here.
Personally support Black Maternal Health Week
Additionally, here are six things you can do today to support Black Maternal Health Week, The Black Mamas Matter Alliance and Black families all over the United States.
- Make a donation to The Grand Challenge. This organization funds full scholarships to midwifery school, doula trainings, and childbirth educator trainings to people of color so they can gain the skills they need to work effectively in their communities. If you are a faculty member, trainer or instructor in any of these areas, consider participating in The Grand Challenge by offering a full scholarship, a mentorship or being a preceptor to a participant selected by The Grand Scholarship. Donations of services or funds can make a huge difference and make education accessible to folks who need some support.
- Considering offering a free or reduced fee birth or postpartum package to a family of color so they can personally experience the benefits of having a doula on their team.
- Write a blog post to share on your website or on a local community blog about Black Maternal Health Week and some of the inequities that Black families face during pregnancy, birth or postpartum.
- Increase your own awareness of the issues facing Black families by reading “Battling over Birth: Black Women and the Maternal Health Care Crisis.” We have reviewed this amazing book and loved how it centered the experiences of Black women and parents. You might consider gathering colleagues in your community and having a book club event on this book.
- Download the DONA International Legislative Toolkit which was created by DONA International’s Advocacy Committee, and learn how to advocate for change on the local, state and national level that will impact Black families who are pregnant, birthing and parenting.
- Join DONA International’s Health Disparities and Inequities subcommittee under the direction of Kelli Brien, Subcommittee Chair. Contact the Advocacy Committee to get connected. The Health Disparities and Inequities subcommittee “aims to raise awareness among doulas, clients, healthcare providers, policymakers, and the general public about disparities and inequities in healthcare; educate DONA International doulas in effective ways to reduce health disparities and inequities, as well as improve health outcomes among communities currently and historically experiencing discrimination; and decrease disparities and inequities among population groups and communities within our scope of practice as doulas.”
Step up now
Black Maternal Health Week, running April 11th through 17th is deserving of our attention and energy. The inequities that impact Black families every single day require each and every one of us to take responsibility, lean in and do our part to improve the situation. After reading this post, can you share how you will raise awareness and take action in the comments section below?