Black Maternal Health Week and the California Black Women’s Health Project

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By Raneisha Stassin
California Black Women’s Health Project

California Black Women’s Health Project (CABWHP) is a statewide nonprofit committed to improving the health and wellness of Black women and girls through advocacy, education, outreach and policy. For 30 years, CABWHP has played a vital role in addressing health disparities, promoting wellness and uplifting the health and wellness of Black women, girls, families, and communities. We focus on addressing the social, systemic and structural determinants of health and our programs focus on a wide range of areas where Black women and girls face the most egregious health disparities including: maternal and reproductive health, mental health, COVID-19, violence prevention, aging and more.

Supporting maternal and reproductive health continues to be a priority for our organization as Black women and birthing people are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women. Black women and birthing people are also more likely to experience life threatening complications like preeclampsia, postpartum hemorrhage, blood clots and preterm labor. Our Maternal and Reproductive health program was designed to spread awareness of these issues and work to address them. Through our programming, we highlight the importance of recognizing the impact of structural racism and bias in Black maternal health outcomes as various studies have shown that these increased risks impact Black women and birthing people regardless of income level and education.

“Racism in medical spaces leads to discriminatory care. It’s extremely difficult for the medical field to not have these deep-seated issues, especially around Black women’s health and reproductive care, when gynecology in the U.S. started with inhumane practices and experimentations on Black women and girls,” said Raena Grandberry, Director of Maternal and Reproductive Health for CABWHP. “Discriminatory ideologies and misconceptions that were taught as a result of these practices unfortunately still persist in healthcare today. It’s imperative that we address the medical bias and structural racism contributing to the poor outcomes Black women and girls face in maternal and reproductive health and beyond.”

Studies show that birth outcomes improve with the use of Black birthworkers, midwives, and doulas, as such our Maternal and Reproductive Health team collaborate with other community-based organizations and Black birthworkers working to support Black mothers and birthing people seeking culturally competent care. The team has hosted more than 150 birthworker support circles and engagements including full spectrum doula trainings, Showering the Village events focused on providing mental health resources and other avenues of support for Black birthworkers, as well as the Black Birthworkers Business Toolkit which provides business guidance.

In addition to strengthening the capacity of Black birthworkers, our Maternal and Reproductive health team educate Black moms and birthing people through a variety of educational and empowering wellness focused events, seminars and trainings. Additionally, the team advocates for policy and systemic changes throughout the state. CABWHP has been a partner in policy and advocacy work that includes the Momnibus Act, California’s Reparation Bill, Doula and Home Visiting Medi-Cal Benefits, as well as improvements to Paid Family Leave. CABWHP is also involved in community-centered research to improve birth outcomes for Black women and has partnered with the University of Southern California, University of California San Diego, and the California Department of Public Health on several surveys and published reports.

More than 7,000 individuals have received maternal and reproductive information through our team’s outreach efforts. The team is currently providing a platform for Black women to share their personal reproductive health stories in order to create a narrative that can inform policy changes that improve maternal, sexual and reproductive health outcomes for Black women in a post-Roe era. The team and community partners are also gearing up for a number of Black Maternal Health Week initiatives and events including:

  • Our Bodies Still Belong to Us: Reproductive Justice Now – A virtual gathering of Black birth justice advocates, birthworkers, and Black families.
  • The Inland Empire Perinatal Equity Provider and Community Summit – A two-day event focused on advancing health equity and quality of life for Black and African American pregnant women and their families.
  • Sankofa Birth Workers Rest & Restoration – A wellness event for Black Birthworkers in the Inland Empire

To learn more about these upcoming events or other ways to get involved visit:

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