Health & Well-being
A SAFE, JOYFUL ECOSYSTEM FOR BLACK BIRTH
The Challenge: In Canada, African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) women and birthing persons face devastating inequalities when it comes to maternal health. Generations of colonialism and systemic racism have shaped a birth system that too often is culturally insensitive or actively unsafe for ACB parents-to-be — leading to maternal health outcomes up to four times worse than those in white populations.
The Solution: With Mommy Monitor, Elsie Amoako is building new knowledge and social infrastructure to restore birth justice for Black and racialized women and birthing people in Canada — creating pathways for ACB communities to exercise power and choice over their own reproductive health.
A platform for Black maternal health
Giving Birth While Black: It should be an intense, joyous, safe, and supportive process. For too many African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) parents-to-be, though, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care can be sites of trauma. What’s more, Canada lacks strong data to support research into best practices and policies to support ACB moms and birthing people.
Researcher and advocate Elsie Amoako aims to change all that. Her organization, Mommy Monitor, is transforming pregnancy, birth, and postnatal care for Black and racialized communities in Canada — with the goal of building a better and more just birth system for everyone.
For example, research suggests that Black women and birthing people fare better when they are supported by professionals from the same racial background. Mommy Monitor is developing an ever-expanding network of Black birth professionals — from obstetricians, midwives, and doulas to pelvic health specialists, lactation consultants, therapists, and more — who can serve Black clients in a culturally safe manner. She’s created partnerships and leveraged funding so that these services can be made available to all Black parents, specifically those who would otherwise not be able to afford them. As a result, Mommy Monitor is increasing demand for Black birth professionals while incentivizing more racialized professionals to enter the maternal healthcare workforce.
Mommy Monitor also focuses on education, providing birth justice workshops to help Black parents and parents-to-be understand their rights and navigate the healthcare system. Elsie is part of a team of Black birth workers developing a certified, university-accredited, social-competency birth curriculum for new and existing birth professionals. The organization convenes an annual, national Racialized Maternal Health Conference; in 2018–2019, it brought together more than 1,200 government, civil society, community, and healthcare stakeholders to build support for integrating racialized care into provincial and federal health policy — work that is leading to the development of Canada’s first Black Maternal Health Caucus.
Through all these activities, Mommy Monitor addresses the dearth of race-based data on pregnancy and birth outcomes in Canada. The organization is building the credibility to ethically collect data from the communities it engages, which will help to provide the information we need to create effective policies and programs to support Black maternal health.
In its first year – 2019 — Mommy Monitor reached over 400 Black parents in Ontario. Elsie plans to launch a Mommy Monitor app to connect ACB maternal health providers with clients and community members. Longer-term, she hopes to introduce predictive technologies that can anticipate and prevent health crises for Black parents-to-be.
“For me,” she says, “this is about ensuring that we have a legacy, that we are normalizing the experience of culturally safe and accessible maternal care and creating a positive impact in the lives of Black women and birthing persons globally.”