Caucus Weekend 2020 Features Panel Discussion on ‘Implicit Biases Experienced When Caring for Pregnant Women of Color’

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( ENSPIRE Feature ) The NYSABPRL’s 49th Annual Legislative Conference

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Sigma Kappa Zeta Chapter of Brooklyn, NY hosted their 2nd Annual Maternal Health Workshop on ‘Why Doula Services are Important in Addressing the Implicit Biases Experienced When Caring for Pregnant Women of Color’ at the 49th Annual NYSABPRL Conference this past weekend in Albany engaging discussion on understanding the doula legislation and its impact on community-driven care sponsored by March of Dimes. 

According to the March of Dimes, the mortality rate in the U.S. is 17.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, for non-Hispanic black women, it is 43.5 per 100,000 live births versus 12.7 for white women. Yet, most health insurance companies do not currently provide coverage for women who elect to receive the benefits of doula services. The doula, a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting is experiencing labor or has recently given birth. Unfortunately, most insurance companies currently do not explicitly cover doulas. The objective of the workshop was to explain the doula legislation currently being reviewed in NYS, to discuss the effects of doula legislation on doula care in NYS, to outline the benefits of doula care and to provide options to advocating and supporting doula services and its impact on community-driven care. 

The workshop featured an educational and engaging panel discussion with Dr. Tracy R. Webber Director of Midwifery, Chanel L. Porchia – Executive Director of Ancient Song Doula Services, Esther Patterson Birthnet Co-Chair and Nikita Hardy Mother and Recipient of Doula Care Advocate, was sponsored by Assemblywoman Kim Jean-Pierre and conference chair Assemblywoman Latrice M. Walker and funded by March of Dimes.

Since its inception, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., has championed service initiatives designed to address the societal mores, ills, prejudices, and poverty affecting humanity in general, the black community in particular. In 1972, Zeta Phi Beta partnered with the March of Dime and adopted the Stork’s Nest Program, an incentive program that provides pregnant young women with prenatal and postnatal education, parenting information and necessities for their newborns. 

The United States shows to have been the worst in preventing pregnancy-related deaths than most other races specifically amongst Black women who die at a rate that ranges from 3 to 4 times more higher than their white counterparts. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (2016) report on Severe Maternal Morbidity (SMM), the community districts with the highest SMM rates are all in Brooklyn: Brownsville, East Flatbush, and East New York. Most deliveries in these neighborhoods were to Black non-Latina women: 76% of all deliveries in Brownsville, 87% in East Flatbush and 52% of all deliveries in East New York were to Black non-Latina women. 

As a sorority comprised largely of African American women and as a chapter located in Brooklyn, we are very concerned with the many health issues that seem to plague our women.  “We cannot sit idly by while our community continues to suffer in these ways, we are an action-oriented organization and we are calling ourselves to action in the form of developing opportunities to educate our community in hopes of empowering them to become advocates for their individual health!” (thus the inception of the community forum). 

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