Birth Detroit to open city’s first freestanding community birth center

DETROIT—This Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, the nonprofit Birth Detroit will celebrate giving by raising funds for Birth Detroit Care, a prenatal and postpartum clinic at Brilliant Detroit’s Fitzgerald House, for virtual childbirth education and continued planning for Detroit’s first community birth center.

With support from a $250,000 planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in partnership with the Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI), Birth Detroit is expected to open the first freestanding accredited birth center in Detroit in 2021. A birth center is a home-like place where midwives provide prenatal, birth, and postpartum care. The grant funds will support Birth Detroit’s work to engage community members while fulfilling its mission to midwife safe, quality, loving care through pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

In October, Birth Detroit opened Birth Detroit Care, a clinic at 16919 Prairie St., near the University of Detroit Mercy’s McNichols campus, in partnership with Brilliant Detroit. The  clinic provides critical pre and postnatal care and resources to birthing families in the community. The opening of the clinic comes at a critical time as Black women continue to experience racial disparities in maternal health. The clinic is supported by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM) and other donors.

“Birth centers are a critical part of an integrated health system,” said Birth Detroit co-founder Leseliey Welch. “Now more than ever, all birthing people should have access to a full range of safe birth options, and Birth Detroit is excited to be a vital contributor to this goal.”

Welch is also co-director of Birth Center Equity, a national initiative launched to make birth center care an option in every community, by growing and sustaining birth centers led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). One hundred percent of funds raised go to BIPOC birth centers, including Birth Detroit. Birth Center Equity will direct $250,000 to 25 BIPOC community birth centers this Giving Tuesday. Funds will support general operations, staffing, easy access perinatal support, continued expense of PPE, and capital campaign development.

Women of color experience significant barriers as they strive to lead and enter the field of birth center development. Less than 5 percent of the more than 380 freestanding birth centers in the U.S. are owned or led by people of color. Furthermore, few initiatives center Black women as leaders in our own care, despite research showing that maternal and infant health disparities disproportionately affect Black families. Increasingly compelling evidence reveals that birth centers improve maternal and infant outcomes, enhance patient satisfaction and lower cost, yet there is no freestanding birth center in Detroit. That is why Birth Detroit was founded.

Planning grant funds will be utilized to further Birth Detroit’s maternal child health stakeholder engagement plan in order to develop a birth center that is responsive to community needs. Building on previous stakeholder interviews and a community survey taken by nearly 400 people (mostly African American Detroiters), Birth Detroit will host a series of conversations with communities, providers and payors in the new year.

Renowned midwife Jennie Joseph will support strategic planning and local adaptation of the JJWay, her evidence-based model of care proven effective in caring for women of color. In addition, Birth Detroit is actively engaged in the American Association of Birth Centers as a developing birth center member. At the conclusion of the grant period, the team aims to have provider and payor partner agreements in place and a site selected for its physical location.

“As a public health professional and mother who experienced the death of my six-month-old son, I recognize the importance of elevating the voices of mothers and families,” said Dr. Renee Canady, CEO of MPHI, a Birth Detroit partner.

Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage giving and to celebrate generosity worldwide. Every year, on Giving Tuesday, millions of people across the globe (in almost 60 countries) mobilize to show up, give back and change their communities. The goal is to create a massive wave of generosity that lasts well beyond that day, and touches every person on the planet.

Birth Detroit’s founding team is comprised of a public health administrator and community health strategist, a certified nurse midwife, a certified professional/licensed midwife and a certified doula and health equity consultant. Together, the team has over 30 years of experience serving Detroit families.

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