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Transforming trends that affect entire populations


Reversing a Devastating Trend

Racial disparity in perinatal outcomes is among the area’s most urgent public health problems. There are many barriers to proper care for black women during and after pregnancy and birth, and the effects of that inequality are devastating: Charlottesville’s black infant mortality rate is 17.5 per 1,000 live births, more than double the overall city infant mortality rate of 8.8 and the state rate of 7.2. 

In nearby Nelson County, the black infant mortality rate is 50 deaths per 1,000 live births, ten times higher than white infant mortality. A Shaping Futures Grant co-funded by Dorothy Batten and Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital has supported doulas of color who are working to address this critical health issue and lower black infant mortality rates.

With support from the grant, more doulas were trained to reach more mothers and babies. The doulas completed an intensive training and apprenticeship before working with moms on their own, and they provide perinatal support according to a mother’s needs. A doula might accompany an expectant mother to prenatal yoga classes and doctor’s appointments, tell her what she can expect at the hospital, hold her hand through the labor process or help mother and baby get the hang of breastfeeding.

Since the grants began in February 2017, the doulas have achieved dramatic success in improving the birth outcomes experienced by African American mothers and babies.


Hear local youth talk about the population-level trends that they’re seeing in our community.