On April 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), made $4.5 million available “for hiring, training, certifying, and compensating community-based doulas in areas with high rates of adverse maternal and infant health outcomes.”
This funding is intended to expand the Healthy Start program which aims to improve health outcomes before, during, and after pregnancy, and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in infant death and negative maternal health outcomes. Over 101 Healthy Start projects received funding in 2020. In particular, projects must being working with communities that have an infant mortality rate of 8.85 per 1,000 births (1.5 times the national average of 5.9 per 1,000 births according to the CDC).
According to the HRSA local projects must impact the overall community and includes activities such as
- Health care services
- Prenatal, post-partum, well-baby, youth care, reproductive life planning, and women’s health
- Screening and referral to services for depression, substance use, and interpersonal violence
- Services that increase access to health care and improve health outcomes
- Outreach and case management
- Screening and referrals for health care, insurance, and social services such as WIC, home visiting, and doula services
- Parenting skill building, self-esteem building, child care, father support, and translation
- Transportation, housing assistance, job training, prison/jail-based services
- Public Health Services
- Immunization and health education (for example, smoking cessation, youth pregnancy prevention, childbirth education, breastfeeding and nutrition)
- Provider training
- Continuing education and training on best practices for Healthy Start staff and community partners
The $4.5 million for community-based doulas is seen as an essential part of the Departments strategy to protect the health and well-being of women and “address the crisis of Black maternal mortality and morbidity.” HHS views a doula as positioned to reduce contributing factors of maternal mortality and morbidity in the healthcare setting. In particular, HHS acknowledged the benefits of having a doula present such as increases in spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter labors, and reduced c-section rates.
A link is provided for current Healthy Start awardees to apply for the “Doula Supplement.” If individuals or organizations are interested in applying for a Healthy Start grant check out the HRSA Healthy Start page or contact Benita Baker, MS, the Health Start Branch Chief.