Announcing the Launch of the STL 360 Doulas Initiative

We are honored to have been selected as a co-recipient of a Merck for Mothers Safer Childbirth Cities grant, which will expand access to doula care through a new STL 360 Doulas Initiative. The STL 360 Doulas Initiative is a collaborative effort between Jamaa Birth Village, STL Doulas of Color Collective, and Generate Health. Jesse Davis, MD, MBA, from Washington University, will join the team for program evaluation.

With this initiative, the partnership seeks to address Missouri’s high maternal mortality rate, which is currently 7th highest in the nation with a staggering 40.7 deaths per 100,000 live births. Moreover, the maternal mortality rate for Black women is nearly three times that of white women and 80% of the state’s pregnancy‐related deaths were determined to be preventable. Doulas – trained professionals that provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to women before, during, and after childbirth – have been shown to reduce maternal mortality rates and improve birth outcomes.

Community‐based doulas have a particularly important role to play in combating exploitation, exclusion, discrimination, and loss of autonomy that communities of color routinely experience in the medicalized birth system. Community‐based doulas are often members of the community they serve, sharing the same background, culture, and/or language with their clients.

We are committed to leading the change towards zero disparities in maternal health and increasing positive birth experiences for Black women by increasing access to Black Doulas in the St. Louis region. Having access to equitable information about pregnant bodies and the process of childbirth is power. Having access to a skilled, trained and certified birth support person who looks like you, is fully invested in you and lives in your community is power. Having continuous comfort, support and affirmation during the transformation of pregnancy to parenthood is power. Having reliable and skilled hands-on support after the birth of a new baby is life saving power. How many women are giving birth in “Power-LESS” situations? The STL 360 Doula project supports Black women in being “Power-FULL” during their pregnancies, birthing experiences and parenthood, while investing in future Doulas and our local maternal health infrastructure to consistently provide high-quality, culturally safe and woman-led maternal health care,” says Tru Kellman, CPM, CD, CLC, Executive & Clinical Director at Jamaa Birth Village.

The STL 360 Doulas Initiative will intentionally scale the emerging local doula movement and Jamaa Birth Village’s licensed doula training to ensure long‐term capacity for culturally congruent doula care for Black pregnant people in St. Louis, while fundamentally restructuring the maternal care ecosystem to center the needs of Black St. Louisans during prenatal, perinatal, and postpartum periods. “360 Doulas” refers to both the number of doulas trained and wraparound (360°) support that doulas provide.

This initiative will also integrate doula care into the local maternal health ecosystem and build demand, readiness, and respect for their services. Throughout the three-year grant period, the 360 trained doulas are expected to serve a total of 8,100 pregnant people in the St. Louis region. Investments in health system advocacy, a public health “listen to Black women” campaign, and ongoing support through the Doulas of Color Collective will yield sustainable doula capacity to serve over 21,000 people annually. Ultimately, building this robust network of doulas, paired with bold advocacy work, will allow St. Louis to fundamentally deconstruct, reimagine, and redesign our local maternal health system to respect Black pregnant people, promote healthy pregnancies, and foster positive childbirth experiences.

“I am passionate about work that focuses on maximizing social impact in the communities that need it most. This collaboration gives us the opportunity to advance health equity for women of color, increase access to quality healthcare, and advocate for our most vulnerable populations in a sustainable way. I am honored to serve our community,” says Dr. Jesse Davis, Hospitalist in the Division of Newborn Medicine and Clinical Instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine.

Learn more about this initiative: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has published an article about the partnership and Merck for Mothers has issued a press release highlighting their 2021 cohort of grantees.

Generate Health
5501 Delmar Blvd, #B240
St. Louis, MO 63112
phone: (314) 880-5719
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