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Alliance Webinar on Supporting the Perinatal Workforce in Policy and Practice

The Alliance’s Senior Director of Advocacy and Issue Campaigns, Jacy Montoya Price, welcomed attendees to the third in a series of maternal health webinars presented with support from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative. Children’s health is impacted by their parents’ health and there are large disparities in maternal health that need to be addressed to realize health equity. The Alliance is partnering with leading maternal health organizations to support our network of early childhood advocates to engage more deeply and authentically in maternal health advocacy. 

Jacy introduced the panelists for the webinar, Milan Spencer who serves as the Associate Director, Workforce Development & Partnerships and Stephanie Aristide who serves as the Policy and Advocacy Associate at the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA). BMMA is the premier maternal health organization in the country, led by and for Black people.    

Milan started with an overview of BMMA, the four pillars of their work, and their definition of “Black Mamas”. BMMA are the founders and leaders of the Black Maternal Health, Rights and Justice Movement, made up of a national network of Black women-led organizations and professionals who work to ensure that all Black Mamas have the rights, respect, and resources to thrive before, during, and after pregnancy. BMMA’s work is built on four pillars: Change policy, Cultivate research, Advance Care for Black Mamas, and Shift Culture.  

For BMMA, the term “Black Mamas” represents the full diversity of lived experiences that includes birthing persons (cis women, trans folks, and gender nonconforming individuals) that are people of African descent across the diaspora. BMMA recognizes, celebrates, and supports those who care for and mother our families and communities whether they have given birth or not. BMMA stands in solidarity with ALL Black Mamas. 

BMMA founded Black Maternal Health Week in 2018 and it is celebrated each April to deepen the conversation about Black maternal health in the United States, amplify community-driven policy, research and care solutions, center the voices of Black Mamas, and enhance community organizing on Black maternal health. Black Maternal Health Week was officially recognized by the White House in 2021, 2022, and 2023 and has reached billions of people since its founding. BMMA also hosts a biannual Black Maternal Health Conference and Training Institute, which will be held again in fall 2024.  

Black Mamas Matter Alliance has engaged in a range of research, publications, and policy work, including research on community perspectives on maternal mortality review committees. In the resulting report, Maternal Mortality Review Committees: Sharing Power with Communities, community members share their barriers in connecting with MMRCs and BMMA recommends strategies to improve processes to be more inclusive of communities and responsive of community needs.   

In 2017, BMMA hosted the first Congressional Hill Briefing on Black Maternal Health and Reproductive Justice and played an instrumental role in informing the focus of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, founded by Representative Alma Adams (D-NC 12th district) and Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL 14th district.) The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act was written by and for Black birthing people and advocates, including BMMA.   

During the webinar, BMMA reviewed the stark maternal mortality disparities impacting Black Mamas and American Indian/Alaskan Native women. The gaps have not changed over time despite the fact that 80% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. In fact, maternal mortality rates increased from 2018 to 2020. A range of historical and current challenges impacting the Black community, many of which are based in racism and sexism, contribute to the inequitable maternal health outcomes experienced by Black birthing people. In order to undo the systems and structures that continue to harm Black people and their families, BMMA established a policy agenda in “Advancing Holistic Maternal Care for Black Women Through Policy” (2018) which was further developed in “Black Mamas Matter: In Policy and Practice.” (2023) 

The priorities identified through BMMA’s 2018 policy paper were: 

    • Identify and ensure mechanisms for engagement and prioritization of Black women and Black women-led entities in policy and program development and implementation. 
    • Establish equitable systems of care to address racism, obstetric violence, neglect, and abuse.  
    • Expand and protect meaningful access to quality, affordable, and comprehensive health care coverage, which includes the full spectrum of reproductive and maternal health care services for Black women and birthing people. 

In the 2023 policy agenda, the priorities were outlined via six overarching policy issues, including:  

    1. Structural and Social Determinants of Black Maternal Health 
    2. Full Spectrum Maternal, Sexual, and Reproductive Healthcare 
    3. Black Maternal and Perinatal Workforce Development 
    4. Criminalization of Black Women, Birthing People, and Families 
    5. Research and Data Transformation 
    6. Black Women and Birthing People’s Leadership  

BMMA’s policy agenda builds upon work of Black women who have always led the charge to create avenues of resilience and healing. While these policy issues are siloed for the purposes of this policy paper, they are not siloed in Black women and birthing people’s lives. BMMA recognizes that racism, sexism, and intersecting oppressive forces pervade and connect each of these policy issues. 

“Black Mamas Matter: In Policy and Practice” is a guide for local, state, and federal efforts to address maternal health disparities. It is intended to serve as a foundational resource for the movement for Black maternal health rights, and justice and to inspire the action that is so needed. Advocates are encourages to watch the virtual rally through which the policy paper was released, to attend Black Mamas Matter Alliance initiatives, and to contact policymakers to ask that they enact policies that ensure that Black women and birthing people have the rights, respect, and resources to thrive before, during, and after pregnancy.   

Before moving into the Q&A portion of the webinar, Milan and Stephanie shared more about the Black Maternal Health Incubator Hub, which is a pilot project that aims to enhance the capacity of Black-led, community-rooted organizations serving Black birthing people during the perinatal period and across the reproductive care life course. To stay informed about the Black Maternal Health Incubator Hub and potential future cohorts, sign up for BMMA’s newsletterAdditional opportunities to learn from BMMA and their partners include future webinars and the Black Maternal Health Conference and Training Institute (#BMHC24) planned for September 12-14, 2024.  

The webinar closed with Q&A from participants, including:  

Knowing that our network is primarily early childhood advocate working at the state level, how can they get engaged in supporting work for perinatal health workers and working with Black-led community organizations?  

    • In every region of the US and most local levels where there is a huge disparity, there are organizations that are currently doing the work. Seek out the community-based, grassroots organizations that are leading locally and get involved in their efforts. Reach out to the organizations directly, share your own work, passion in the state and ask to understand their needs and how to support them.   
    • Always be sure to honor those who have been in the trenches doing the hard work for a long time. BMMA extends all over the country. If there are specific states you’re wondering about, reach out to Milan or Stephanie and they’ll share their partners’ information with you and make a warm hand-off.   
    • Do some homework about what is happening on the ground where you are. Grassroots, community-based work is where it begins and how it’s sustained. Support your local groups.  


Webinar participants had several questions about the Incubator Hub and opportunities to get involved. 

    • Incubator Hub participants are not assigned mentors but will connect with each other as a cohort and with the trainers for the Hub. 
    • The Hub is a pilot for BMMA. They will take everything they learn from this cohort and make adjustments moving forward, so they’re not certain about timing for a second cohort. 
    • BMMA is considering hosting some public webinars and training on perinatal workforce development and other maternal health issues. To stay informed about learning opportunities, sign up for BMMA’s newsletter. 


How can a grassroots community-led organization become a BMMA partner?     

    • BMMA is not currently open to new partnerships but as fluctuations happen in the future, they may open up again. That information would be shared in their newsletter.  
    • New partners for BMMA have often been engaged with them through other work, and thus are already on BMMA’s radar. If you have a passion and believe in the work, participate in BMMA events and initiatives. Engage and collaborate with them and develop a relationship.  


Do you have a toolkit that can assist agencies in developing programs and services for Black women in the perinatal period? 

    • If interested in a blueprint, start with the policy agenda. It can be used in different ways – to build out programs and initiatives using these policy recommendations, use as talking points in meetings, and more.  
    • Also reach out to BMMA partners through their website. Partners may have those types of resources as well.   
    • Follow BMMA on social because a lot is shared through there that partners launch. Good way to see what’s happening in across the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.  


What can I read to learn more about the history of maternal health in the Black community? 


Black Mamas Matter Alliance: 

Black Maternal Health Week – #BMHW: 

Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) Environmental scan: 

BMMA’s work: 

Black Maternal Health Caucus:  

Black Mamas Matter: In Policy and Practice: 

BMMA Virtual Rally: 

Black Maternal Health Conference – #BMHC24:  

BMMA partners: 

Key readings from BMMA:  

This webinar is part of an Alliance series of co-hosted webinars on community-driven solutions, supporting the maternal health workforce, and overburdened and under-resourced populations—with partners such as Elephant Circle, RH Impact (formerly the National Birth Equity Collaborative), and Black Mamas Matter Alliance. Learn about the others in the series on our webinar homepage.

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