By Hayley Robb, Building Kentucky
Three nonprofits from Lexington and Louisville teamed up with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Kentucky Medicaid to expand maternal health services and improve health outcomes for expecting mothers and newborns. The exciting announcement comes on the heels of Governor Andy Beshear declaring May as “Doula Awareness Month” in Kentucky.
Through its Maternity Options Made Simple (MOMS) grant, Anthem is donating $75,000 to both The Birth Haven and Hope’s Embrace, two Central Kentucky nonprofits offering parents and caregivers the much-needed tools and skills to thrive during childbirth and parenting. In addition, Anthem is pledging $150,000 to Mama to Mama in Louisville, totaling $300,000 in dedicated funding for maternal health services.
In recognizing Doula Awareness Month, Gov. Beshear proclaimed, “Doula services have been proven to lower the overall cost of giving birth, providing far-reaching positive impacts on Kentucky families, the economy and the entire Commonwealth. Organizations like Mama to Mama, Hope’s Embrace and The Birth Haven are working in partnership to expand access and resources to critical maternal and infant health services including exponentially increasing the number of doulas.”
Through Anthem’s MOMS grant, these three organizations have hired 19 doulas, including nine doulas of color, six located in rural areas of Kentucky and one with an American Sign Language certification. Additionally, the grant has already helped deliver six babies, supported four lactation clinics, created 11 scholarships for doula training services and much more.
“At the center of strong families are strong, devoted mothers,” said Leon Lamoreaux, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Medicaid President in Kentucky. “That’s why Anthem Medicaid is committed to expanding access and resources for moms in order to improve the lives of future generations and foster communities of support for parents, before and after birth.”
A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous, physical, emotional and informational support during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Doula care is among the most promising approaches to combating disparities in maternal health. Low-income women are at the highest risk of poor birth outcomes in the United States, and women of color are particularly vulnerable.
In fact, the maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births for Black women in Fayette and Jefferson counties is over two and half times higher than for white women: 42.1 vs. 17.2 respectively.
Doulas can help close the gap. It’s been shown that women receiving doula care have experienced improved health outcomes for both themselves and their infants, including higher breastfeeding initiation rates, better pre- and postnatal care and reduced rates of C-sections.
“Studies are clear that doulas improve outcomes for those giving birth by providing educational and non-judgmental support,” said Julie Six, Founder of The Birth Haven and Kentucky Doulas. “Through our partnership with Anthem Kentucky Medicaid, we will be able to connect more people to a network of health resources and professionals in order to decrease infant and maternal morbidity and mortality rates in our state as well as help facilitate positive birth and post-baby experiences.”
Renee Basham, Executive Director of Hope’s Embrace, echoed this sentiment, explaining that with this grant funding, Hope’s Embrace will be able to further its fundamental mission.
“We are committed to making birth support accessible to all,” said Basham. “This partnership with Anthem Kentucky Medicaid allows us to help more women experience a safe birth environment, allowing them to start their lives as mothers feeling empowered and confident.”
To date, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Medicaid in Kentucky has invested nearly $400,000 to improve health outcomes for Kentucky mothers, soon-to-be moms and their children. In 2021, Anthem donated $80,000 to establish eight community diaper closets across Kentucky, providing parents complimentary access to diapers, wipes, creams and related baby items.