Thursday, October 7, 2010

Community-Based Doula Programs

I love that a Senator is a supporter of doula programs! 

from the American Public Health Association

Maternal and Child Health
Section Newsletter
Fall 2010

Community-based doula programs, which have made a big splash in the news media and on the federal stage in the past year, improve infant health, strengthen families, and establish supports to ensure ongoing family success – including improved prenatal care, fewer pre-term births, increased breastfeeding rates, increased birth weight, fewer medical interventions, fewer c-section deliveries, more positive birth experiences, increased mother-child interaction, and improved parenting skills.

What is a community-based doula? Across the nation, HealthConnect One (HC One) connects mothers-to-be in under-served communities with other women in their community who are specially trained to provide support during pregnancy, birth and the early months of parenting. We focus on this sensitive period in a family's life, when intervention makes the most difference, creating long-term linkages to networks of support. Our programs succeed because the doulas are of and from the same community as their clients and are able to bridge language and cultural barriers in order to meet health needs. This is the power of peer-to-peer support!

HC One community-based doula programs include five essential components:

1. Employ women who are trusted members of the target community.
2. Extend and intensify the role of doula with families from early pregnancy through the first months postpartum.
3. Collaborate with community stakeholders/institutions and use a diverse team approach.
4. Facilitate experiential learning using popular education techniques and the HC One training curriculum.
5. Value the doulas' work with salary, supervision, and support.

The success of these programs was recognized on the Senate Floor by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), a longtime champion of the community-based doula program, during Senate debate of the Health Reform legislation, on Dec. 23, 2009, when he said:

"I am encouraged by the language in Section 5313 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Grants to Promote the Community Health Workforce, and want to ensure that the definition of community health worker includes community-based doulas. The Federal Government currently funds community-based doula programs through the Maternal and Child Health Bureau's Special Projects of Regional and National Significance. Expanding the definition of community health workers in the reform bill will give these evidence-based programs greater support to meet the needs of families in under-served communities."

We are very grateful for the support of Senator Durbin and the work of his staff. We are beginning now to advocate with the Department of Health and Human Services as they design health reform to ensure that community-based doula programs will be eligible for the HRSA Grants to Promote the Community Health Workforce. To participate in this effort, click to contact Mac Grambauer or call (773) 728-0271.

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and a growing understanding of the need to incorporate community health workers into mainstream health systems, HC One has decided to move our conference to D.C. We are now planning our fifth national conference, Birth, Breastfeeding and Beyond: Sustaining Community-Based Practices, for March 21-23, 2011, to be held at the Arlington Hilton just outside Washington, D.C. This conference is currently scheduled to open with a session on community health workers in health reform and will close with legislative lobbying and congressional meetings. This will be the first time we pair our national conference, which gathers energy over two days and culminates in advocacy training, with our now-annual Lobby Day. We hope you will consider joining us. For more information on the conference, click here or contact Conference Co-coordinator RoiAnn Phillips.

Additional Resources:

Doula becoming a household name (ABC News Chicago, May 2010)

There's No Place Like Home (Center for American Progress - Jan. 5, 2010)

Doulas Support Young Moms (The National Clearinghouse for Families & Youth - December 2009)

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