Earlier this month, Mayor Adams signed into law a bill sponsored by Councilmember Jennifer Gutierrez that would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to provide no-cost doula services to marginalized neighborhoods and establish a doula training program, reports The Bushwick Daily.
The bill called Introduction 472, will pilot in 33 neighborhoods across the tri-state area, including Bushwick. Each neighborhood chosen has been identified as having a high level of health and socio-economic disparities by the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity.
“This bill is a small but very meaningful chip away at the system that does not keep black and brown women– particularly black women– safe, in a system that looks at pregnancy and labor and childbirth as this very peripheral societal thing,” stated Councilmember Gutierrez.
Doulas provide physical and emotional support to expectant mothers and families before, during, and after birth. And in New York City, a city where Black women are 8 times more likely than white women to die from a pregnancy related issue, doulas can also provide more holistic, culturally sensitive care, especially to women of color who have had poor experiences with institutionalized maternal health care settings.
Gutierrez emphasized the importance of a personal connection in the birthing process. “For folks that are newer to the community coming from Central and South America, or parts of Africa, this concept of doulas and midwives is not new. It helps them immigrate easier, it helps them feel comfortable to ask more questions because this is a familiar practice.”
The pilot program will start next month and continue through June 2024. It will also require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to train at least 50 doulas. “I have no doubt in my mind that we’re going to be able to look at this in a year and a half and see the benefit that it provides to communities and use that to expand citywide," Gutiérrez added.
The bill is just one in a package of maternal health bills passed by NY City Council this past August. Other bills will expand education on maternal health, increase access to morbidity data, and expand research on health disparities.