Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Black women in America were three times more likely to die of pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes than white women. Now, the pandemic is compounding inequity even further. Recent data reveals that Black and Latino individuals are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 than their white counterparts.1 And from an economic standpoint, COVID-19 has predominately impacted non-white women, skyrocketing unemployment rates for Black and Hispanic women to 16.4% and 20.2%, respectively.2
The unfortunate reality is women of color and their families have long-faced undue barriers to achieve and sustain success in varying aspects of life, including access to critical health care services supporting their emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. That’s why particular focus must be given to support mothers of color during these truly unprecedented times.
Many organizations like Black Mamas Community Collective (BMCC), a local nonprofit committed to providing Black mothers access to the resources and education needed to have healthy pregnancies, birthing and postpartum experiences, are creating their own support networks to action meaningful change. Their work began long before the pandemic but has grown increasingly more critical during the virus’ sustained spread.
A Socially Distant Safe Haven
Like many, BMCC has experienced drastic change in the past five months. At the beginning of the pandemic, BMCC’s services, such as its prenatal and postpartum community circles, transitioned from weekly in-person gatherings and appointments to virtual Zoom meetings to adhere to social distancing regulations. The organization’s doula program, which pairs a certified doula with a Black mother to support her through pregnancy, childbirth and the first year postpartum, also transitioned its weekly home visits to virtual Zoom meetings and telehealth check-ins. Nakeenya Wilson, BMCC’s Executive Director, said this has led to an increase in consistent participation by mothers thanks to expanded service access via technology. She also noted how both services have become even more valued and critical because they provide a safe, consistent space for mothers to connect with one another and express the challenges experienced in a socially distanced world, including round-the-clock care, parenting and schooling.
Going Above & Beyond
While BMCC made these quick pivots to support short-term needs, the team also prepared for the long-term impacts of the virus. According to a study by Texans Care for Children, “maternal mental health challenges – sometimes called postpartum depression or maternal depression – are one of the most common complications of pregnancy, affecting 1 in 7 Texas women.” This has only been exacerbated by the isolation and increased responsibility placed on mothers while navigating this “new normal.”
BMCC recognized this growing need and applied for a St. David’s Foundation COVID-19 Recovery Fund Grant in late April to expand it social services support. In June, the Foundation awarded BMCC with a grant to support the hiring of a licensed social worker. This will equip the organization with the resources needed to provide intensive case management and culturally relevant, trauma-informed, individual and group mental health services for the mothers of BMCC. Going forward, the organization also plans to focus on developing and expanding long-term partnerships with fellow nonprofits, as well as grow their volunteer base to continue to up level the support they provide “Black Mamas of ATX.”
From Surviving to Thriving
It’s said that a happy, healthy mother is the foundation of a household and their child’s success – from birth to the early formative years and beyond. The intermediate and long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on Central Texas women of color aren’t yet fully realized. However, both the pandemic and recent race relations have reignited the conversations around racial justice. As a result, BMCC has received an influx of donations enabling the organization to serve more women and enhance and expand their current services. BMCC asks for continued support alongside fellow nonprofits, such as Mothers Milk Bank, Keep Austin Fed, and Undoing White Supremacy, to ensure support is sustained, as well as to foster growth of women’s health services in this region.
Prior to receiving a St. David’s Foundation COVID-19 Recovery Fund grant, BMCC was an existing grant partner of St. David’s Foundation’s Focus on the Fourth Women’s Health Initiative, a campaign aimed at improving postpartum access and outcomes during the “fourth trimester,” the first year of a baby’s life. The Foundation is committed to health equity across all its goals and principles and is dedicated to advancing women’s health to ensure there are no avoidable, systemic or social determinants preventing health care access for women in the Central Texas Community.
If you’re interested in learning more about St. David’s Foundation’s Focus on the Fourth Initiative and its partners, click here. To learn more about or get involved with Black Mamas Community Collective, please click here.