By Hafeezat Bishi
Welcome to the latest edition to our partner spotlights, where we share information and the work of our LNPWI Partners.
The Perinatal Community Health Worker Program (formerly the North Philadelphia Community Doula and Breastfeeding Program) at Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) is an innovative workforce development initiative that prepares participants to enter meaningful healthcare careers as Perinatal Community Health Workers (PCHW’s). This career pathway is important because PCHW’s provide vital support to child-birthing families in their own communities through outreach, health education, and supporting families preparing for childbirth and caring for a newborn. This training also benefits the participants because it allows them to enter a variety of career options in healthcare and social assistance–many of which pay a living wage and require a high school diploma and PCHW training. In addition to preparing individuals for PCHW careers, the PCHW Program at MCC supports childbearing families and reduces health disparities for communities of color by offering free education and information to families about their medical and reproductive rights and matching families with skilled PCHW’s.
Since the program started in 2013, Naima Black, Director of Community Doula & Breastfeeding Programs, said that MCC has been extremely successful in “increasing the birth worker workforce in communities that are experiencing the highest disparities, inequities, the highest rates of maternal mortality, and lowest breastfeeding rates,”. In 2019, MCC was able to expand its impact even further by partnering with the Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative (LNPWI). Through this partnership, MCC has been able to expand the PHCW Program training from 20 sessions to a 27-session model and can now offer participants $50 for every session they attend. In addition, their partnership with LNPWI has allowed MCC to begin working towards a long-time goal of incorporating “a racial and reproductive justice framework” into the training.
Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, the PCHW Program has had to do a bit of a shift. Thankfully, their first cohort through the LNPWI partnership was able to complete their training in early February. However, as people are giving birth daily, the pandemic makes it harder for PCHW’s to meet face to face with families. “We just kind of shifted, and have offered several webinars to our network around how to provide virtual support over FaceTime or zoom or WhatsApp, so that we can still help families in the time of social distancing,” says Black.
One effort the program staff are hopeful about is a petition to the Governor to implement an executive order (and potentially permanent legislation) that would provide temporary licensing for homebirth midwives, Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs). In Pennsylvania, midwives are currently not licensed, meaning insurance won’t cover them. Having this legislation would offer new birth options for many families in North Philadelphia who currently cannot afford a home birth.
The PCHW Program and Maternity Care Coalition have been leaders in changing the discussion around maternal health care, home birthing, and the disparities faced in areas such as North Philadelphia. They have made tremendous strides in pushing for sustainable employment, racial justice, and reproductive justice in the community, and LNPWI is proud to be a partner in this great work. Be sure to learn more about the great work MCC does on their website at maternitycarecoalition.org and on their Facebook and Instagram pages.