By Julia Richards | Photographed by Hillary Schave
This is Black Maternal Wellness Week and in the Dairy State there’s much work to be done. Wisconsin has the worst birth outcomes for African Americans in the nation. In September, BRAVA Magazine reported on the work of the Harambee Village doulas to address this crisis. Doulas provide continuous emotional and physical support during labor and birth.
In February, Gov. Tony Evers introduced his state budget, including an initiative called Healthy Women, Healthy Babies, which would provide funding for doulas to serve women of color as part of a wider effort to support black infant and maternal health. Research shows that doula support can improve birth outcomes.
Evers’ administration met with Harambee Village staff before the election and continues to work with them as the bill moves through the legislative process. “If done in the way that we have discussed with the governor, it would add to creating a more sustainable salary for doulas,” says Micaela Berry, executive director of Harambee Village Doulas LLC.
The budget is now before the Joint Finance Committee, which is holding public hearings. While not optimistic that much of the governor’s proposed budget will survive the Republican controlled Congress, Sarah Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health says, “We’re working our hardest to lift up the Healthy Women, Healthy Babies Initiative.”
Finger stresses the importance of keeping doulas of color at the center of the effort. Berry concurs, saying, “We believe doulas know what is best for doulas,” and should lead in any regulation associated with the bill. Harambee Village currently has over 15 doulas with more in training, Berry says.