"A Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative with Merck for Mothers"
The STL 360 Doulas project 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.
This project seeks to 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.
Missouri’s maternal mortality rate is the 7th highest in the nation – currently a staggering 40.7 deaths per 100,000 live births. This 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 are trained professionals that provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to women before, during, and after childbirth. 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. This project will expand access to doulas of color, and specifically Black‐identifying doulas, to support Black pregnant people in St. Louis.
Envisioned Project Outcomes:
This project will integrate 360 local doulas into the 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.