Mohawk Valley Prenatal & Maternal Support Receives

$30,000 from Excellus BCBS

From left: Shayna Keller, community investments and partnerships manager for Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield; Ashley Engram, CLC, MSP Mohawk Valley Prenatal & Maternal Support Program Director; Teoka Muhammad, Doula, Nutritionist and Life/Fitness Coach and Eve Van de Wal, regional president Excellus BCBS, join together at the check presentation.

Mohawk Valley Prenatal & Maternal Support (MVPMS) has received a $30,000 Health Equity Innovation Award (HEIA) from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to support its Sister Circle: Black Birth & Breastfeeding Initiative (SC3BI) program.

The awards program provides financial support to community programs that address racial and ethnic health disparities across Excellus BCBS’s Upstate New York service area.

Sister Circle is a birth and breastfeeding initiative which provides and promotes doula services to women of color, with the goal of improving birth rates, birth outcomes and providing breast feeding and post-partum support.

“We are thankful to Excellus BCBS for providing us with a Health Equity Innovation Award which will strengthen our Sister Circle program and provide vital support to women of color in our community,” said MVPMS Program Director, Ashley Engram. “Our program will have an impact on birth outcomes and birth rates among black women in our area for years to come because we are focusing on long-term solutions and introducing new doulas into the community.”

As part of the program, MVPMS will provide culturally sensitive doula training to 10 women of color who are passionate about childbirth and breastfeeding. The course, which will be taught by DONA International Certified Doula Trainers, will train the women to be both birth doulas and includes lactation (breastfeeding counselor) support training.

Doulas are non-medical professionals who are trained to provide physical, emotional & informational support to assist and advocate for patients and their families. In the pregnancy setting, doulas provide emotional and informational support. They provide physical support and unbiased, nonjudgmental support during labor/delivery and assist with breastfeeding initiation immediately after delivery. Doulas provide continuity of care by providing emotional and informational support during the post-partum period.

After completing their training, the new doulas will partake in monthly business mentorship sessions for six months and be paired with 10 pregnant women of color.

“The doulas and the expectant mothers will attend Sister Circles hosted by members of MVPMS to discuss issues within pregnancy, fears and concerns about their upcoming labor/delivery experience and breastfeeding goals,” Engram explained. “The program will then follow up and monitor these women through their post-partum period to gauge the results and provide additional support.”

MVPMS is one of 20 nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organizations from across Excellus BCBS’s Upstate New York service area including the Rochester, Central New York, Utica/North Country, and Southern Tier regions who received HEIA funding.