Two nonprofits combatting infant mortality receive $1.2 million grant to start doula, midwife program

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Originally written by: Julie Washington

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A national grant given to two Cleveland-area nonprofits is aimed at increasing Black women’s chances for healthy pregnancies and raising thriving infants by providing them with support from doulas and midwives.

Birthing Beautiful Communities and Village of Healing — an organization and a women’s health clinic working to reduce infant mortality and support maternal health in the Black community — will form a collaborative to share a $1.2 million, two-year grant.

Birthing Beautiful Communities received $780,000, and the rest will go to Village of Healing, said President and CEO Jazmin Long.

The grant will provide prenatal care, a doula and a midwife to women, Long said. Enrollment in the doula-midwife program begins this month, with a goal of reaching 144 clients over two years.

The funds also will allow Village of Healing and Birthing Beautiful Communities to research how doulas and midwives working together can reduce infant mortality, Long said.

“It is a big deal for us to have received these funds,” Long said. “We are one of three states that received this funding, and it was a competitive process. So we’re very grateful.”

Infant mortality is a public health crisis in Ohio and across the nation — especially among Black families.

Overall, the rates of infant deaths locally and statewide have steadily dropped in recent years. In fact, Cuyahoga County last year had its lowest rate of infant deaths since 2013. The wide racial disparities, however, continue.

Black babies in the city of Cleveland were more than twice as likely to die in the first year of their lives as white newborns in 2021, according to city records.

In 2020, Ohio’s infant mortality rate was 6.7 per 1,000 births, among the worst in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Atlanta and Detroit, along with Cleveland, were selected to receive grants provided by the Alexandria, Virginia-based Creating Healthier Communities, which empowers local organizations to reduce high rates of preterm births among Black women, the organization said in a press release.

Creating Healthier Communities considered up to three eligible organizations in those cities, the organization said. Cleveland’s Birthing Beautiful Communities and Village of Healing“were consistently identified as leaders in the Black birthing space,” said president and CEO Jean Accius in an email interview.

Village of Healing is a Euclid health clinic that focuses on improving health for Black women.

Long’s organization, Birthing Beautiful Communities, provides perinatal support doulas, also called birth workers, and social support to pregnant women whose babies are at the highest risk for infant mortality.

In addition to the Black Birthing Initiative grant, Birthing Beautiful Communities recently was awarded $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act money from the city of Cleveland. The stimulus money will be used for a new $12-million birthing center in Cleveland.

Birthing Beautiful Communities and Village of Healing believe that doulas and midwives help reduce infant mortalitybecause they help pregnant women feel supported by a trusted healthcare provider, Long said.

“We know that doulas are a life-saving force for pregnant people who are African American,” Long said. “We see this with the statistics that we have in our organization, and with the statistics that our peers have across the country.”

A perinatal support doula is trained to givephysical and emotional support to their client before, during and shortly after childbirth.

A midwife provides medical care, while a doula does not, according to an online blog about midwives and doulas. A midwife can order prenatal tests, perform internal examinations and cervical checks, take measurements, and perform clinical tasks.

Julie Washington covers healthcare for Read previous stories at this link.

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