The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded funding of $2 million dollars to the Bronx Health Collective (BHC) of Montefiore Medical Center and maternal health organization Mama Glow Foundation. This is a historic moment that is likely to improve maternal health outcomes in the Bronx and New York City at large.
In 2021, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. stood at 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births—more than three times the rate in other high income countries. Equally jarring is the disproportionate impact. When compared to the general population, Black birthing people are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications. In our nation’s hardest-hit regions, the disparity is more pronounced. In Bronx County, the ratio of pregnancy-related deaths for Black birthing people was 9.4 times that of white birthing people. With the grant, the BHC will work with the Mama Glow Foundation to fill an urgent need in a unified approach.
The Bronx Health Collective (BHC) is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) of Montefiore Medical Center. Annually, the BHC provides medical, mental health, nutrition, and enabling services to over 9,000 patients across the lifespan—a demographic which includes women of reproductive age. Because of structural racism, exposure to violence is common for birthing people in the Bronx. For this reason, the BHC’s proposed project centers pregnant people receiving care at the BHC who have experienced past trauma.
Partnering with the Mama Glow Foundation as part of a strategy to diminish rates of maternal mortality and birth trauma is about acknowledging the role of familiarity in heightening the comfort of birthing people within the medical sphere. Under our current care system, many birthing people interface with physicians or midwives employed by the hospital—figures that are also unknown to the person before their admission. By leaning on doula services through the partnership with the Mama Glow Foundation, the BHC looks to create a new reality where birthing people are familiar with, and therefore more comfortable with, those providing their care. Additionally, this familiarity creates a comfortable environment conducive to self-advocacy—doula care is associated with lower rates of cesarean and instrumental delivery, lower rates of postpartum depression and stress, and better parenting practices.
“Trauma has a profound impact on how we live our lives and how we experience pregnancy, and yet, it’s not screened for at prenatal check-ups and appointments. Our goal is to address this gap by facilitating a space for personal growth, and uplifting holistic solutions and community healing through the delivery of trauma informed care,” said Latham Thomas, Founder at the Mama Glow Foundation.
Routine evaluation and refinement of services is key in better-serving the needs of birthing people. For this reason, the partnership will also allow the Mama Glow Foundation and the BHC to work together to identify barriers related to maternity care. As the BHC works to implement potentially life-saving programs, they will collaborate with the Mama Glow Foundation to address obstacles and identify solutions to heighten the efficacy of the programs for participants. Furthermore, the BHC will gather insight from Mama Glow’s community-based doulas, whose experience on the ground uniquely positions them to understand the needs of community members. This huge victory will enable the two to establish what is needed most in the fight against maternal mortality—a collaborative effort and model of care.
“This potentially lifesaving initiative, which has been informed by feedback from our clinicians, patients and community leaders, acknowledges the high level of violence and trauma that too many families in the South Bronx have had to endure,” said Amrita Seehra, MD, MPH, AAHIVS of the Bronx Health Collective. “This grant allows us to reconfigure the services patients at our Federally Qualified Health Center receive during and up to a year after pregnancy. We hope to improve health outcomes, support parental and infant well-being, and create a new model of integrated, trauma-informed care that other providers nationwide could replicate to address a critical factor influencing pregnancy-related morbidity and mortality.”