On August 31, 2021 Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson joined with birth justice advocates and healthcare leaders for a press conference announcing over $400,000 in City Council funding to combat high rates of infant and maternal mortality in the Bronx. $150,000 was allocated in the New York City Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget to Gotham Health, Morrisania to support their Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program that provides low-income mothers with comprehensive lactation services, and over $200,000 to Bronx Health Link, Inc. for their doula programming. Both programs were funded this year with the intent to reduce poor health outcomes for Bronx birthing individuals and children, as the Bronx continues to have one of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the city.
Data shows that New York State has a relatively high rate of maternal mortality relative to other states in the country, with 20.8 deaths per 100,000 people in 2018. In 2017, most pregnancy-related deaths in NYC occurred in residents of Brooklyn (33% of all pregnancy-related deaths in NYC) and the Bronx (29%). The data also highlighted a significant racial disparity with Black women eight times more likely than White women to die from pregnancy-related complications as a result of several factors that include: systemic racism and discrimination in the healthcare industry, comobdities that can affect a mother`s health during childbirth, access to patient affirming care from a culturally competent healthcare profession, and a myriad of other risk factors that can disproportionality impact a woman of color`s health.
Doula services have been shown to greatly reduce poor health outcomes for birthing individuals and their infants by offering crucial emotional and physical support before, after, and during childbirth. Bronx Health Link, Inc. is one of a few organizations in the Bronx that offer Doula support to birthing individuals.
In addition to poor maternal health outcomes in the Bronx, the borough also has high rates of infant mortality with eight of the eleven Bronx community districts having higher infant mortality rates than the NYC average. Children are also not immune to racial health inequities with babies born to Non-Latina Black mothers experiencing an infant death rate of 7.9 per 1,000 live births, compared to 2.3 deaths per 1,000 live births born to Non-Latina white mothers.