A growing body of research has revealed that low-income women of color who are under chronic stress due to implicit bias in medical care or other economic stressors experience detrimental outcomes in their pregnancies. To address these inequities in our health care system, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion, authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and co-authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, directing pertinent County Departments to seek funding to expand doula services for pregnant women who are Medi-Cal recipients, incarcerated, or members of an at-risk population not eligible for Medi-Cal.
“Access to high-quality health care should not depend on a woman’s income or socio-economic status, and I am committed to erasing these disparities in medical care by expanding doula care services,” said Supervisor Solis. “Doulas empower women to communicate their needs to their medical providers which leads to healthier families. Every mother and child, regardless of race or ethnicity, has a human right to high-quality medical care.”
“It is well documented that African Americans have disproportionately high rates of infant and maternal mortality throughout the nation, as well as within the County of Los Angeles,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, co-author of the motion. “I believe that increasing the quantity of certified, high quality doulas and making their services affordable to those who need them most will lead to a reduction in these unnecessary and preventable fatalities.”
Doulas are professional childbirth companions who provide expectant women emotional support, advocacy, and education during pregnancy. For years, doulas have been part of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum recovery for all women, but especially for women of color. Through their community-based work, doulas have been proven to effectively decrease mortality rates among African American mothers and their infants.
Experts believe doulas also play a key role in increasing the number of healthy child births, especially among immigrant women and other vulnerable mothers with limited access to quality health care. Studies have shown women who received support from a doula during labor were less likely to have a cesarean section, which decreases the risk of maternal mortality.
Today’s motion directs the Department of Public Health, along with other Departments, to produce a 90-day report back outlining funding streams that could expand doula services for middle-income black women, individuals who are incarcerated, and populations not eligible for Medi-Cal. The report back must also include suggestions for a Medicaid waiver that would allow expanded doula services for black women and other at-risk Medi-Cal enrollees.
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