Supporting and Centering Women: The Grantee Partners We Fund in the United States

Women in the United States, especially in low-income communities and communities of color, can face nearly insurmountable barriers to getting the maternity care and support they need. This is just one of the factors contributing to the unacceptable disparities in health outcomes. But even as the health system is failing these women, there are leaders in the field who have developed models of care that address their communities’ needs and can lead the way towards widespread change.

Every Mother Counts invests in programs providing comprehensive and quality care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-partum period by identifying leaders in safe, respectful, and culturally appropriate maternity care. Both of our grantee partners in the US are led by midwives and align with the tenets of the midwifery model of care. By centering mothers, these programs offer access to care that addresses the unique challenges and inequities they face due to race, income, and immigration status.

Jennie Joseph, Founder and Executive Director of Commonsense Childbirth (Photo by Clancy McCarty)

At Commonsense Childbirth in Orlando, Florida, no one is turned away, regardless of their insurance, financial situation, or citizenship. Jennie Joseph, the founder and executive director of Commonsense Childbirth, has developed a model of patient-centered care practiced at her organization’s Easy Access Clinics, which provide high quality prenatal and postnatal care, birth services and support, and educational and social support services to women regardless of their choice of delivery site or practitioner, or ability to pay.

Jennie’s approach is simple — it’s rooted in the unshakeable belief that every woman deserves a happy, healthy pregnancy and birth for herself and for her baby. Her organization listens to women, with compassion and without judgment and empowers them to take control of their own care and to learn as much as they can. The JJ Way® incorporates access to high quality, affordable services with a personal connection with healthcare staff and knowledge of culturally responsive supportive services to increase women’s agency and self-determination through pregnancy, birth, and parenting.

Nicolle Gonzales, Founder and Executive Director of Changing Woman Initiative ({Photo by Clancy McCarty)

Through her organization, Changing Woman Initiative, Nicolle Gonzales seeks to reclaim indigenous sovereignty of women’s health and birth practices by drawing on cultural traditions and indigenous knowledge. Nicolle and her team are engaging Native American communities and pueblos around Santa Fe, New Mexico, by holding talking circles with leaders, healers, and women and documenting cultural traditions around pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum health to construct and create a culturally-centered reproductive wellness and birth center — the first Native American birth center in the United States.

A certified nurse-midwife herself, Nicolle hopes that creating a centrally located space that provides culturally relevant and evidence-based care will break down barriers that Native women come across when accessing care, which can then serve as a model for tribal communities across the country. By prioritizing community needs and input, the health center will ensure that Native women, who have been historically marginalized by the US health system, can access culturally relevant care that merges respect for tribal traditions and their native languages with modern, evidence-based, compassionate, and respectful practices.

Learn more about the work that Every Mother Counts supports in the United States and around the world at everymothercounts.org.

Topics: Childbirth, Maternal Health, Pregnancy