Post 1: Doulas Crucial in Ending Racial Disparities in Maternal Health

Hi everyone!

My name is Marleny and I am a rising junior and STEM Posse Scholar at Brandeis University. This summer I am an intern and co-coordinator at Ancient Song Doula Services, a Brooklyn, NY-based and low-cost doula service.

As a reproductive justice organization, our goal is to serve families of color and low-income families who do not have access to doula care. Through a collective of several services and resources for parents of color and low- income families, we ultimately aim to bridge racial disparities in maternal health by addressing racial and implicit bias.

In New York City, the maternal mortality rate, for example, is 12 times greater for Black women than for white women. Given that systematic oppression is a social determinant of the high Black infant and maternal mortality rate, shifting tasks and responsibilities down the hierarchy of the healthcare system are both necessary and ideal for the survival of marginalized communities. For these reasons, the most crucial aspect to birth equity is free and low-cost doulas services such as Ancient Song Doula Services.

Given that there have been recent opportunities for reform within maternal health as New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo proposes a state doula pilot program that includes Medicaid reimbursement as well as a Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee, Ancient Song also centers their work around political reform and advocacy for the marginalized communities it serves. Prioritizing the reimbursement of community-based and culturally-relevant doula services through Medicaid is key to bridging racial disparities in maternal health, so we have been gearing most of our attention towards this lately.

A lot of my responsibilities, as of now, include community outreach, writing testimonies to present to the city council, planning events to gain momentum for our #ourtimeisnow campaign for birth equity, and creating promotional material to share with the community and with other local and national organizations.

Additionally, while we continue advocacy at such a crucial time, I am responsible for coordinating our third annual Decolonizing Birth conference called “Decolonizing Birth: Addressing The Criminalization of Black and Brown People within the Healthcare System,” which is being held September 22-23. This involves looking for sponsors, keynote speakers, and reviewing proposals for prospective workshops. My internship requires a high level of responsibility and I am really enjoying my time at Ancient Song for the second year.

The work I am doing is super important and falls in line with my career goals. By the end of the summer, I hope to have improved my ability to manage my day to day tasks and become more familiar with the policies that have been and will be put in place to address the disparities in maternal health. I am looking forward to sharing my journey at Ancient Song with you all this summer and I am looking forward to what is to come!

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