Standing in the backyard of the Brownsville Neighborhood Action Center, Mayor Eric Adams announced Wednesday that he’s making a multimillion dollar commitment to expand the city’s doula and midwifery programs to reduce maternal and infant mortality in Black and brown communities.
“Black women are nine times more likely to die of pregnancy related causes than white women,” Adams said. “You don’t hear this. It’s like no one cares. Well, we care. I said it before and I will continue to say, we can’t ignore it. And we’re not going to pretend as though the problem is going to go away. We’re going to get on the ground and address this issue. And today, we’re announcing a multifaceted initiative to help reduce these inequities.”
Adams was joined by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom, Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Dr. Michelle Morse and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.
First, Adams said he’s expanding the city’s doula program that started in 2010, making it citywide. And it will provide free access to doulas – trained non-medical professionals who assist in giving birth – to 33 neighborhoods throughout the city, which the mayor says have the greatest need.
They’ll also be expanding the workforce, Adams said, by training 50 new doulas with the goal of providing service to 500 families by June.
“This is an aggressive goal, sending a clear message that we want to save children and families,” Adams said. “The care our babies get before and after birth are so important. And we want to focus on that to stop the crises that we’re facing.”
Williams-Isom said she wished she had had a doula to guide her through the 36-hour birth of her daughter and the aftermath almost three decades ago.
“That difficult situation also affected how I bonded with my daughter,” Williams-Isom said. “No one told me. They were like, ‘yeah, you can nurse them. You know how to nurse?’ I didn’t know what I needed to do and no one helped me. And I kind of felt like it was my own fault for a long time.”
Additionally, Adams said, the city is launching a midwifery program in all public and private birthing facilities across the city. The program will collect and report on data for births and midwifery care and create partnerships with midwife organizations, community members, hospitals and private practices.
“We are going to dismantle those barriers that are not allowing the practice of midwifery, to be part of how we have our overall health,” Adams said.
Finally, the mayor said he’s expanding the Maternity Hospital Quality Improvement Network (MHQIN) to all 38 birthing facilities to improve the quality of maternal care at the city’s hospitals and birthing centers.
“We’re going to focus on the root causes of racial disparities in maternal health,” Adams said. “We will offer trainings on implicit bias, trauma informed care and help hospitals support doula policies and practices.”