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Grant Opportunity to Grow Community-based Doula Care

Grant Opportunity to Grow Community-based Doula Care

April 29, 2022

By Kelly Vyzral, Senior Health Policy Associate 

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recently announced $4.5 million in new funding to support community-based doulas. The funding, available through HRSA Healthy Start Initiative, can be used for hiring, training, certifying, and compensating community-based doulas in areas with high rates of adverse maternal and infant health outcomes.

The mission of HRSA’s Healthy Start Initiative is to improve health outcomes before, during, and after pregnancy, and reduce racial/ethnic differences in rates of infant death and adverse maternal health outcomes. Under this grant, which is specifically for current HRSA funded grantees, doulas will provide care to women during pregnancy, birth, and for at least three months postpartum. One of the long-term goals of this funding is to ensure that doulas have sustainable employment and career opportunities at the community level.

This announcement comes during Minority Health Month and is a great opportunity to look at the issue of Black maternal health in Ohio. We have long known that Ohio and the country are facing a maternal health crisis. The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country, and every year, women in Ohio die preventable deaths of complications from pregnancy, even weeks or months after giving birth. Between 2008 and 2016, over half the deaths of women who were pregnant or who died within one year of pregnancy were preventable.

The health realities that Black women are up against are challenging at best. According to the Ohio Department of Health’s 2019 Infant Mortality Annual Report, Ohio’s infant mortality rate was 6.9 per 1,000 live births in 2019, but the rate among Black infants was 14.3. Black women died at a rate more than two and a half times that of white women. From 2009-2019, Ohio saw a decline in infant mortality of 10% due to statewide efforts – however, during this same period, Ohio’s infant mortality disparity by race increased by 26%. Factors such as access to maternity care, financial stability, safe, stable housing, and health insurance status are driving this increase.

Doulas are an important evidence-based practice for improving Black infant and maternal health. There is a strong and growing body of evidence that access to doula care during pregnancy reduces the incidence of preterm birth, the prevalence of cesarean births, and increases positive birth experience and health outcomes for both mother and child. According to the March of Dimes Peristats, the preterm birth rate among Black women is 47% higher than the rate among all other women. The doula’s role is critical in mitigating stress and toxic stress levels that can be experienced by an expectant mom during pregnancy.

Currently, in Ohio, doula care services are not directly reimbursable through Medicaid. This puts the support and care that many women would benefit from out of reach due to cost. Grant programs like the one HRSA is funding bring attention to the health benefits that doulas provide and greatly expand access to these lifesaving services and supports.

The HRSA grants are a great opportunity for eligible applicants to establish and grow sustainable doula networks in high-need areas of the state, increase the number of women who will be able to access affordable, high-quality doula care services, and move the needle on maternal health.

To learn more about the Healthy Start grants for community-based doulas and how to apply, visit: View Opportunity | GRANTS.GOV

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