Enhancing Healthier Birth Outcomes by Creating Supportive Spaces for Pregnant African American Women Living in Milwaukee
Objectives Nationwide, African American women report higher stress levels and less access to pre- and postnatal resources. Wisconsin mirrors national infant mortality trends that show a persistent four-decade gap in infant survival between African American and White populations. The objective of the Milwaukee Birthing Project (MBP) was to implement a community-based health promotion intervention to improve birth outcomes for pregnant, low-income African American women, evaluate its effectiveness, and document its usefulness to inform development of future interventions. The project involved a mentoring and supportive relationship between 28 volunteer mentors (Sister Friends) and 20 pregnant women (Little Sisters). Methods The project implementation and evaluation were informed by the lifecourse perspective and a postcolonial feminist framework. Thematic analysis was used to analyze ethnographic data from monthly meetings and interviews with pregnant Little Sisters and Sister Friends. Results Our findings showed patterns both in community spaces and spaces created during the MBP. Program spaces contrasted with everyday life spaces and allowed women to experience community support. Based on our analysis, we classify these spaces as: (1) community spaces lacking support, (2) safe spaces of belonging and understanding, (3) spaces that foster meaningful interaction, and (4) safe, supportive spaces for other women in the future. Conclusions for Practice Future interventions should consider intentionally developing safe spaces to attain health goals. From a postcolonial feminist perspective, the voices of women who are at greatest risk for experiencing poor birth outcomes are crucial to the development of effective policies.
KeywordsAfrican American women Birth outcomes Infant mortality Preterm birth Health disparities Academic-community partnerships
We are grateful to Dr. Geoffrey Swain (Milwaukee Public Health Department) for sharing important information on African American birth outcomes and to Ms. Tenille Washington, the initial project coordinator, for her hard work in recruiting Little Sisters and Sister Friends and coordinating efforts that provided an important foundation for the success of the MBP. We would also like to thank Lauren Engler (University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health) who served as a medical student intern. Finally, we are grateful to New Concept Self Development Center in Milwaukee for their important support. Funding for this project was provided by the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health to the Lovell Johnson Quality of Life Center in partnership with University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, College of Nursing. The project described was also supported by the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program through the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) Grant UL1TR000427. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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