New report highlights grave and racialized maternal and infant disparities in the USA

On March 8, 2018, in honor of International Women’s Day, Thursday, the National Perinatal Taskforce (NPTF), in collaboration with Commonsense Childbirth and Mama Sana Vibrant Woman (MSVW), released a new report entitled “The National Perinatal Taskforce: Building a Movement to Birth a More Just and Loving World.”  The report is available on the NPTF website.

The United States is currently experiencing what some might call a maternal and infant health care crisis:

  • Despite high levels of health care spending outpacing other developed nations, the high maternal and infant mortality rates in the United States have garnered international attention.
  • Black women are three to four times more likely to die from birth related complications than their white counterparts.
  • Hispanic women face significant barriers accessing prenatal care as well as culturally and linguistically appropriate care services.

This report highlights the grave and racialized maternal and infant disparities in the United States and offers a framework to address not only root causes but also individual, community, and systems level responses.

“We must closely examine the contributing factors in our society that continue to fail pregnant individuals to the extent that these conditions repeatedly result in the loss of a life,” maintains report co-author and researcher Haile Eshe Cole. “Understanding the social determinants of health is only a part of beginning to address the root causes of the issue,” states co-author and midwife Paula X. Rojas. “Systemic inequalities have deep historical roots that have profound and longstanding impacts on communities of color, in particular.”

The report identifies four primary areas of need including:

  • Models that provide community-located and culturally-based healthcare resources,
  • Increased social and community support as a means to mitigate the impacts of racism, stress, and other determinants that affect an individual’s social conditions and, ultimately, health outcomes,  
  • Models that promote self-determination and agency,
  • Movement building efforts that shift cultural and social conditions.

It also offers two distinct models: the JJ WayⓇ developed by Florida-based midwife Jennie Joseph and the Maternal Justice Model (MJM) developed by community organizer and midwife Paula X. Rojas. Both models have been shown to be effective in eliminating maternal and infant health disparities and organizing to implement policy and systemic changes to address the social determinants of health and improve the material conditions that contribute to the drastic health inequities across the nation.

Finally, the report provides a number of key recommendations for health providers and practitioners, health care agencies and institutions, and community workers.

Jennie Joseph, co-author, midwife, and creator of the JJ WayⓇ asserts that “It is important for all to work hard to create a just and loving world where every woman thrives, every baby reaches full term, and communities have the resources needed to care for their families.” A 2007 evaluative study conducted by the Health Council of East Central Florida found that overall, preterm birth rates for women participating in the JJ WayⓇ model were significantly lower than preterm birth rates for the county and the state of Florida. When broken down by race, the study found that Black and Hispanic women in the clinic had 0% preterm births.

View the full copy of the report here.

Commonsense Childbirth was founded in 1998 by Jennie Joseph  who has dedicated her life to helping women and families have better birth experiences.  Our Vision: We believe that all women deserve a healthy pregnancy, birth and baby! Our Mission: To inspire change in maternal child health care systems worldwide; to re-empower the birthing mother, father, family and community by supporting the providers, practitioners and agencies that are charged with their care. 

National Perinatal Taskforce (NPTF) is a virtual community of people who have a heart for women and children. People who have heard the statistics, understand that the system is broken and want to make a practical difference in the health outcomes for mothers and babies. The NPTF is a grassroots movement to start and grow Perinatal Safe Spots (PSS) in every Materno-toxic Area. It’s a place to share ideas – what’s working and what’s not.

Mama Sana Vibrant Woman (MSVW) is a community organization that works to facilitate access to culturally appropriate and quality, prenatal and postnatal care for women of color in Austin and Travis County. Our Mission: To improve pregnancy and birth outcomes for communities of color in central Texas by providing education and support. Our Vision: A just and loving world where all mothers receive attentive quality loving care and where all communities have equitable resources to care for their children.

Related coverage on the topic:

Serena Williams and the realities of the ‘maternal mortality crisis’

U.S. Has The Worst Rate Of Maternal Deaths In The Developed World

Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving’s Story Explains Why

Childbirth is killing black women in the US, and here’s why.

READ: How Racism Makes Pregnancy Dangerous for Black Women

Way Back Wednesday Post: Me Time

Originally posted January 10, 2013

6:30 am
My alarm clock goes off as usual. It’s morning. I glance at the window only to notice the lack of sunlight shining behind my wine colored curtains. I begin to go through in my head the normal morning routine that is about to ensue. I have attempted repeatedly to get my sequence down to a science but it never fails that the timing gets thrown off in some way or another. Most often, time depletion in the mornings is caused by my own lingering exhaustion that seems to paralyze every fragment of my weary body. That is, every fragment except for my left arm which musters up just…. enough…. strength… to… hit the snooze button…. Just ten more minutes…

6:55 am
In the far recesses of my brain I hear the faint and distant ringing of a bell. It is steady and getting progressively louder and louder and louder…and It’s my alarm!!! I rub my eyes and roll over to glance at the red lights on the clock. 6:55!!! That was the longest snooze ever! I must have missed the second alarm. I jump out of bed, run to the shower, and try to enjoy the fifteen minutes of quiet time and hot steaming water before I start the rest of my day. I hop out, get dressed and make baby girl’s lunch for the day. I need protein, dairy, wheat, fruit and vegetable. No sweets. No chips unless they are veggie ones of course. “Healthy foods only” is the rule at my daughter’s daycare. Lunch is packed and now it is time to wake baby girl.

7:25 am
“Good Morning, sweetheart,” I whisper as I gently caress the curly black hair off my sleeping child’s forehead. She’s beautiful. She slowly rubs her eyes, looks at me, and rolls over to go back to sleep. This is not her usual and overly energetic for 7 am exclamation of “Good Morning, Mommy!” I smile. Man, I love this kid. I shake my head and giggle as I think about all the fuss and fight she put up before bedtime the night before. I know she is still sleepy. Nevertheless, I manage to coerce baby girl out of bed and we have our routine five minute morning hug before getting her dressed. We brush our teeth, I put baby girl’s hair in two plaits with pink bows to match her dress and polka dotted rain boots. With jackets on, we are out the door with baby girl’s “eat on the way” breakfast in hand…

9:00 am
I pull into my driveway after returning home from dropping my daughter off at daycare. I realize that there is still a week left before I begin another semester of the ritualized rite of passage that we call graduate school. I go over in my mind all of the things that I need to do before then. Meeting with my advisor. A deadline here a few weeks away. Another deadline here a few weeks away. Wash clothes, wash the dishes, and make sure the house is clean before the chaos of the semester commences. I look over my calendar. Hmm… Nothing here significantly pressing. Then it hits me! My child is at school until 5. I am at home, by myself! I am experiencing the rare and quickly fleeting occurrence known as – alone time. Immediately my mind begins to scan and envision the plethora of ways that I could spend the next few hours of my day. The options are limitless. I could…

a)     Run through the house, rip off all my clothes, and do the dougie in my draws! I’M FREE!!!!!!
b)     Sleep. Good ole Sleep. Oh how I have missed you.
c)     Exercise. Whenever I have a moment to exercise I most definitely take advantage. This is the perfect opportunity.
d)    Wait. Did I mention sleep?
e)     Take the time to write down my list of things to do and come up with a plan for how I am going to complete this list effectively. If I have this free time to think and get things done, I need to go ahead and get them done!
f)     Or I could sit and just…relax a bit. I could spare a moment to hug myself or to even cry a tear or two as I allow a few minutes to finally set down that teetering ball that I have consistently managed to not let drop. A ball that I juggle on a daily basis alongside a combination of motherhood, school, family, friends, and the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritually well-being of myself and my child.

I sit on the couch with a sigh. Let’s see if I can manage a combination of a few of these things. The great thing about it all is that it doesn’t even matter. No matter what, these next few hours are mine.

As diverse single mothers, we all have varying levels of support and assistance on the day-to-day. Even with this, many of us know the difficulty in carving out amounts of time that we can dedicate to ourselves. Yet, it is important to find these moments – even if they are small- where we can use our time for ourselves and no one else. This is crucial to self-care and caring for ourselves is also caring for our children.

New Report Examines the Experiences and Challenges Faced by Black Women Entrepreneurs!!

“The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) unveiled a new report today detailing the struggle faced by many black women business owners and offering a roadmap of solutions to help the next generation of black women entrepreneurs. Black Women Entrepreneurs:  Past and Present Conditions of Black Women’s Business Ownership, prepared for NWBC and the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy by Walker’s Legacy, a global women-in-business collective, details the findings of black women business owners who participated in three research events earlier this year…”

The report provides a brief historical sketch and also outlines key motivations, barriers, and challenges for black women entrepreneurs.

I had the honor of not only serving as a consulting researcher on this report but also working with a wonderful group of amazing Black women and the Walker’s Legacy staff on this important work.

To see Walker’s Legacy’s full press release on the report here.

Read the full report on Black Women Entrepreneurs here.

Dr. Cole Speaks at East 12th Street Return and Discover Event.

The East 12th Street, Return and Discover street festival was held Saturday September 10, 2016 and organized with support from the Austin Revitalization Authority, Six Square, Huston-Tillotson University, City of Austin’s Economic Development Department Soul-y Austin Program, Spirit of East Austin, Eureka Holdings, as well as a number of local businesses and community stakeholders. The event consisted of food, live music and performances, and family friendly and children’s activities.  In addition, tours of the W.H Passon House and historical talks were part of the event. These talks included Dr. Fred McGhee, an archeologist who discussed the history and development of East Austin, Dr. Haile Eshe Cole who discussed the meaning of “home” and “homecoming” as well the Six Square’s upcoming event focused on African-American cemeteries and sacred burial grounds, and Harrison Eppright who reflected of memories of East 12th street in its heyday. In the end, the event culminated with a Hustin-Tilotson baseball game at the historic Downs Field. This event is one of the many attempts to re-animate and draw attention to the important histories and legacies of East Austin.


Birthing Justice Anthology Highlights the Experiences of Black Women

The recently published book Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth centers the birth and reproductive experiences of black women. The following book synopsis is taken from the Routledge publishing site:

“There is a global crisis in maternal health care for black women. In the United States, black women are over three times more likely to perish from pregnancy-related complications than white women; their babies are half as likely to survive the first year. Many black women experience policing, coercion, and disempowerment during pregnancy and childbirth and are disconnected from alternative birthing traditions. This book places black women’s voices at the center of the debate on what should be done to fix the broken maternity system and foregrounds black women’s agency in the emerging birth justice movement. Mixing scholarly, activist, and personal perspectives, the book shows readers how they too can change lives, one birth at a time…”

While this book will undoubtedly contribute to dialogues around black women’s reproduction, birth, and reproductive justice efforts for years to come, Black Women Birthing Justice also provides a medium for which to read book chapters for free online and discuss them. There is also an accompanying discussion guide that any professor or reproductive justice enthusiast can utilize to initiate conversation on the contents of the book.

The online community of folks reading and discussing online, can be found here.

Links to  the study guide can be found here and you can purchase the book online from Routledge here as well.

Dr. Haile Cole to Speak on Research at Fireside Chat in Atlanta.

The National Women’s Business Council will be hosting a public meeting in Atlanta tomorrow, August 2, 2016 at the Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“The meeting will include welcoming remarks from the Scheller College of Business Dean Maryam Alavi, opening remarks from our Chair Carla Harris, followed by our roster of esteemed Council Members sharing our most recent findings and updates on our activities. Special guests Terri L. Denison, Georgia District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration and Theia Washington, Executive Director of the City of Atlanta Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative will join us to give remarks on their work in Atlanta.

This public meeting will also include a fireside chat on the State of Black Women’s Entrepreneurship between NWBC’s Chair Carla Harris, Natalie Cofield, Founder and CEO of Walker’s Legacy and Dr. Haile Cole, Consulting Researcher of Walker’s Legacy. We will share a “sneak peak” on NWBC’s and the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy’s newest research project, which will officially be released later this year and which was contracted to Walker’s Legacy…”

The link to the Eventbrite can be found here. Check it out.