Black Maternal Health Week opened Monday nationwide, including a ceremony at Jamaa Birth Village in Ferguson and praise for its founder and CEO Okunsola M. Amadou.
The Black Mamas Matter Alliance created Black Maternal Health Week in 2017, and this year’s national theme is “Building for Liberation: Centering Black Mamas, Black Families and Black Systems of Care.”
“It is such a divine moment to see history be made here in Ferguson. To see the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and surrounding municipalities come together in support of Black Maternal Health,” Amadou said.
“Before Jamaa Birth Village was here, we only had five Black practicing doulas in the St. Louis (area.) Now we have over 200.”
According to the Jamaa website, a doula is “a professional pregnancy and labor support person and expert at uplifting and honoring women through the process of labor and birth, while supporting them into the transition of the immediate postpartum and rites of passage of motherhood.”
“Doulas are not healthcare providers and do not provide clinical services. They are trained to provide cultural, physical, and emotional supportive care and education.”
Dr. Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis, St. Louis Department of Health director, called Amadou “a Black woman who found herself at the intersection of Black maternal health and the fear that comes with it.”
“I was a Black infectious diseases physician, [and was] pregnant at the beginning of this pandemic. I was the only Black woman that worked for my department at the time. There was no one advocating for me.”
Davis thanked Amadou “for saving the lives of so many Black women who are 3-4 times more likely to die at childbirth. We fight with you.”
Okunsola M. Amadou, a Fulani-American Midwife, is the Founder and CEO of Jamaa Birth Village. The agency made an announcement regarding its plans to expand and build Missouri’s first Black-owned birth center in Ferguson, MO. In addition, Mayor Tishaura O. Jones presented a proclamation to Jamaa Birth Village in honor of Black Maternal Health Week which is April 11 -17th.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women due to multiple disparities.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones called the statistic “unacceptable.”
“Racism in our health care system and lack of access to quality care are the leading contributing factors. No matter the color of your skin, all of us can agree we all want a better future for our babies and our children, and that starts with a healthy pregnancy.”
NBC News reported Tuesday that Vice President Kamala Harris will host a Cabinet meeting this week to discuss Black maternal health. The administration, which is in its second year of supporting the effort, also has dedicated $3 billion to help fund programs, including rural maternal health coverage and implicit bias training, to address the disparities.
Dr. Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis, MD, MPH, the Director of Health for the City of St. Louis.talks with Okunsola M. Amadou, a Fulani-American Midwife, and the Founder and CEO of Jamaa Birth Village after the agency made an announcement regarding its plans to expand.
Biden said in a proclamation released Monday Black Maternal Health Week is needed “to raise awareness of the state of Black maternal health in the United States by understanding the consequences of systemic discrimination, recognizing the scope of this problem and the need for urgent solutions.”
“[It also is] amplifying the voices and experiences of Black women, families, and communities, and committing to building a work in which Black women do not have to fear for their safety, their well-being, their dignity, or their lives, before, during, and after pregnancy.”
As for the disparities, Amadou said, “we are the solution.”
Jones said “erasing these biases and disparities in our healthcare system makes all of St. Louis healthier in the long run. I want everyone to thrive across racial lines and receiving quality healthcare is part of that mission.”
“Black women historically have had to work twice as hard to get half as much, and healthcare is no exception. Organizations like Jamaa provide families and their children the expertise and resources they need to live their healthiest lives.”
BMHW said on its website the goals of Black Maternal Health Week are to;
Deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health in the US; Amplify community-driven policy, research, and care solutions; Center the voices of Black mothers, women, families, and stakeholders; Provide a national platform for Black-led entities and efforts on maternal health, birth, and reproductive justice; and Enhance community organizing on Black maternal health.