“Midwives deliver – and not only babies. They save lives and promote good health in societies as a whole. They are an essential workforce in an effective healthcare system.”
- United Nations Population Fund Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin
Oakland, CA - April 16, 2012 – Groundswell Fund is pleased to announce the first grant awards from its newest grantmaking endeavor, the Community Midwifery Fund (CMF), a funding collaborative that is now welcoming new donor partners.
The U.S. consistently lags behind other industrialized democracies in infant and maternal mortality rates. Thirty-three countries outpace the U.S. in preventing infant mortality, and fifty have done a better job of preventing maternal mortality. In fact, while birth outcomes in most countries are steadily improving, they are getting worse in the U.S., due in part to increasing racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. African American women, for example, suffer maternal mortality rates nearly four times those of white women, and their babies are two to three times more likely to die – a gap that exists regardless of socio-economic status.
Women of color are also disproportionately impacted by the high c-section rate in the U.S., which leapt from 4.5 percent of all births in 1965 to 33 percent of all births today, in sharp contrast to the World Health Organization’s recommendation that c-section rates not exceed 10 percent. High c-section rates contribute to increased rates of premature birth, low birth weight infants and rising healthcare costs (birth-related hospital costs totaled $98 billion in 2010).
Midwifery and doula care are changing these outcomes across the U.S., providing low cost, high quality care where it might not otherwise exist. Studies consistently show that midwifery care reduces hospital interventions like c-sections, and lowers infant and maternal mortality rates among vulnerable populations.
Yet, while many industrialized countries now make midwifery care widely available, these vital services are extremely limited in the U.S., and there are very few philanthropic dollars moving to this field.
The Community Midwifery Fund was created to make high quality, culturally competent midwifery care more readily available, especially for low-income women and women of color. Its goal is to improve birth outcomes for mothers and babies and address racial disparities in maternal and infant health. In its first round of grantmaking, the CMF awarded a total of $92,500 to eight projects that:
- Increase the number of midwives of color entering the profession;
- Expand affordable, community-based midwifery care, including sliding-scale birth centers and homebirth practices;
- Increase doula training programs for women of color and girls, and community-based apprenticeship opportunities for women of color midwives; and
- Reclaim and support traditional birth practices within different cultures.
According to Vanessa Daniel, Executive Director of Groundswell Fund, “Community-based midwifery and doula training and care are lowering maternal mortality, infant mortality and cesarean rates for women in low- income communities and communities of color across the U.S. The Community Midwifery Fund helps to ensure that midwife and doula care is available to every woman who wants it, no matter what her race or economic status.”
CMF grantees include a Florida midwifery program that has succeeded in reducing low-birth weights and pre-term births among low-income African American women and Latinas and the International Center for Traditional Childbearing, a midwifery training program that successfully persuaded the Oregon Health Authority to research the viability of public insurance coverage for doula care to improve birth outcomes for women of color and low-income women
As Jennie Joseph, founder and Executive Director of CMF grantee Common Sense Childbirth of Winter Garden, FL, explains, "We started with the fundamental premise that every woman wants a healthy baby and every woman deserves one.” Joseph, who is also a midwife, says that her organization has discovered that “when a woman sees that you firmly believe that, she too is motivated to do the best she can for herself and her baby."
“Projects like this one demonstrate the power and effectiveness of midwifery care,” notes Daniel. “We invite funder and donor partners to join Groundswell in increasing support for community midwifery projects that have the power and potential to transform health outcomes for women, children, and communities.”
Community Midwifery Fund 2011 Grantees
- International Center for Traditional Childbearing, Portland, OR, $15,000
- Earth Mama Healing Inc. – Wise Queen Dream Institute, Sacramento, CA, $10,000
- SistahCare, Portland, OR, $10,000
- Sacred Grove, Oakland, CA , $7,500
- Wisdom Spring, Inc., Sacramento, CA, $5,000
- Sacred Birth Place, Oakland, CA, $15,000
- Española Valley Women’s Health, Española, NM, $15,000
- Common Sense Childbirth, Inc., Winter Garden, FL, $15,000
For more information on the Community Midwifery Fund, please visit www.groundswellfund.org.