Program Manager Hired to Run Community-Based Doula Program

Baxter Community Center has announced it is launching a community-based doula program. The launch comes after the hiring of Kiara Baskin, the initiative’s first program manager.

Developed for more than a year by KConnect with local, state, and national partners, the Community-Based Birth Equity Pilot program addresses birth disparities by ensuring that expectant women of color have access to culturally-responsive care by doulas of color. A doula is a non-medical assistant in childbirth that provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother and family before, during, and after her birth experience.  

“In Kent County, Black babies are more than twice as likely to be born at a low-birthweight or die within the first year of life than White babies. This strategy aims to close those disparities in our community. We are excited that Baxter will be incubating this pilot,” said Sonja Forte, Interim Executive Director at Baxter Community Center. “Kiara’s doula experience, passion for equitable birth work, and commitment to community enhancement make her a natural fit to lead this program. We look forward to continuing to work with our cross-sector partners in order to improve outcomes for moms and babies of color.” 

Studies show babies born at a healthy birth weight are more likely to meet developmental milestones and be successful in school. The Community-Based Birth Equity Pilot aims to address the birth disparities in Kent County resulting from systemic racism in health care.

“At a time when many people are waking up to the deep systemic racism that results in disparate outcomes for People of Color, I am excited to see this initiative launching as an active response,” said Anissa Eddie of KConnect who is also the Pritzker Fellow with First Steps Kent. “This program will create new career pathways for women of color and help increase positive birth outcomes for families of color in our community. The program will also illuminate new approaches to help diversify the healthcare field and offer more culturally responsive care.”

The pilot program is part of a larger systemic, multi-organizational strategy that was developed at KConnect, our community’s Collective Impact organization. It brings together local and national partners to increase birth equity in Kent County by improving culturally-responsive care within the healthcare system while providing a career pathway for women of color.

The Community-Based Birth Equity Pilot is a community collaboration with a team of dedicated professionals who have raised nearly $200,000 from local foundations and are leveraging local partnerships. The pilot will be incubated at Baxter Community Center with technical assistance provided by national partner HealthConnect One. Heart of West Michigan United Way will serve as a fiduciary, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s as a Health System partner, and Proponents, LLC as the program’s evaluator. First Steps Kent provided in-kind communication and marketing support for the initiative. 

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