First-ever – Addressed Crisis of Black Women Maternal Mortality in New York City, Solutions-Seeking Quests to End Deadly Disparity
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso on Saturday hosted a maternal health expo to provide expecting Brooklynites, new parents, and anyone who is planning pregnancy with information on a healthy pregnancy and postpartum experience.
“This crisis we have in Brooklyn – where Black women are dying at 9.4 times the rate of their White counterparts – is deeply personal to me,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck crisis, and our maternal health expo was all about the power we already have among us to encourage healthy and happy pregnancies. We came together as city agencies, local organizations, maternal health experts, doctors, doulas, and more to show that Brooklyn is ready to turn the tide on maternal mortality, and I’m so grateful to everyone who showed out to make the day possible. Together, I know we can make this borough the safest place in the city to have a baby.”
More than 100 Brooklynites joined for the all-afternoon event featuring workshops, Mommy and Me yoga and belly dancing classes guided by Harlem Yoga Studio, resources provided by tabling organizations, and remarks by Borough President Reynoso, Deputy Borough President Kim Council, Assembly Member Brian Cunningham, Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, Council Member Rita Joseph, and others.
The expo built on the Borough President’s historic maternal health agenda, which Borough President Reynoso kicked off over a year ago after assembling his Maternal Health Taskforce and making history by dedicating the entirety of his FY2023 capital funding – a total of $45 million – to Brooklyn’s three public hospitals for maternal healthcare improvements. This marked the first time a Borough President has ever allocated an entire fiscal year’s capital funding to one cause, and within one city organization.
The day featured four healthy pregnancy workshops: Prenatal Nutrition & Cooking, led by Daphne Bianco, a Women’s Health Dietician at H+H/Kings County.
Know Your Rights: Paid Parental Leave, Health Insurance, and More, led by Yomaha Gordon, Program Coordinator for the Caribbean Women’s Health Association.
Breastfeeding, led by Paulette Porter-Clarke, RN, CLC, of H+H/Woodhull.
Safe Sleep, led by Shantel Taylor Tull, Family Wellness Suite-Site Coordinator, NYC Health Department.
Current and expecting parents enjoyed safely moving in their bodies during two classes led by Nyota Nayo of the Harlem Yoga, followed by a class in ‘Mommy and Me belly dancing.’ The NYC Health Department closed the event by raffling off a limited supply of Pack-n-Plays. The maternal health expo was made possible by the partnership of Brooklyn for All, Inc., Borough President Reynoso’s Maternal Health Taskforce, Assembly Member Brian Cunningham, the Caribbean Women’s Health Association, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and NYC Health + Hospitals. “Healthcare, specifically black maternal healthcare, is in crisis,” said Assembly Member Brian A. Cunningham. “Just last month, Olympian Torie Bowie died from complications related to childbirth, preventable with the proper resources, information, proper midwifery, and doula care. As a black male legislator, mandating healthcare professionals receive culturally responsive care, centers the mothers’ priorities, and creates a more inclusive, holistic, and safe birthing experience. Thank you to Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso for hosting this vital forum for all pregnant and expecting Brooklynites.”
“The Maternal Health Expo is the first of many manifestations that were ignited when the BP was elected to turn Borough Hall into a classroom for the citizens of Brooklyn on the topic of maternal health and wellness,” said Helena Grant, Co-Chair of Borough President Reynoso’s Maternal Health Taskforce, Senior Advisor of Midwifery Initiatives for the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. “This is another promise he has kept to uplift and empower birthing people with life-saving information on how to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity, exercise choice in providers and hospitals, learn how to self-advocate and connect with community partners and doulas. The frank conversations we had on Saturday have the power not only to inform- but to template the minds of those receiving care so that clients, partners, and families eat better, know their rights, have useful words to use in challenging situations, find providers that share their care philosophy and now have some navigational tools to make their labor and birthing experience a safe, satisfying and sacred experience.”
“The Borough President’s Maternal Health Expo on Saturday was a demonstration of the knowledge and power already among us to begin chipping away at a maternal health crisis that has claimed way too many lives already and disproportionately harms Black women and women of color,” said Dr. Wendy Wilcox, Co-Chair of the Borough President’s Maternal Health Taskforce and Chief Women’s Health Officer at NYC Health + Hospitals. “This expo was but one piece of the puzzle when it comes to improving pregnancy outcomes for New Yorkers, and I’m so grateful to be working with Borough President Reynoso and our incredible taskforce of experts and advocates as we continue building a Brooklyn where no pregnant person dies from a preventable cause. This is a crisis that will require solutions from all sides – infrastructure improvements, public education, career pipelines, and more but together as one city, we can and will get the job done.”
“The NYC Health Department is pleased to be a co-sponsor of the Maternal Health EXPO with Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso,” said Dr. Zahirah McNatt, Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Brooklyn Neighborhood Health, Center for Health Equity and Community Wellness, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “These collaborative efforts aim to enhance services for pregnant and expecting Brooklyn residents, improve birth outcomes, counter historic disinvestment, and eliminate birth inequities. We are grateful for the opportunity to aid in the improvement of pregnancy, birth and postpartum experiences for Black women and birthing persons in Brooklyn.”
Elected officials, city agencies, community organizations, and others that were on site to provide additional resources included: The Alex House Project Assembly Member Brian Cunningham Brooklyn Perinatal Network CAMBA Caribbean Women’s Health Association Christopher Rose Community Empowerment Campaign, Diaspora Community Services Hope and Healing Family Center Life of Hope Morris Heights Health Center (MHHC) Brooklyn My Angel Doula Alliance NYC Administration for Children’s Services NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene NYC Health + Hospitals NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull Midwifery Service NYC Midwives Plant Powered Metro New York Public Health Solutions Puerto Rican
BACKGROUND ON BP REYNOSO’S HISTORY-MAKING MATERNAL HEALTH AGENDA:
Black women are 9.4 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than their White counterparts, and onethird of all pregnancy-related deaths in NYC happen in Brooklyn. In response to what the Borough President calls “one of the greatest inequities of our time,” Reynoso launched a historic maternal health agenda: Maternal Health Taskforce: In April 2022, Borough President Reynoso formed his Maternal Health Taskforce of eight Black women OBGYNs, nurses, midwives, mental health advocates, nonprofit and other community leaders to guide efforts to improve pregnancy outcomes for Black and Brown people in Brooklyn. $45M for Public Hospitals: Over the summer, Reynoso made history when he allocated the entirety of his FY2023 capital funding – a total of $45 million – to Brooklyn’s three public hospitals for maternal healthcare improvements. This marked the first time a Borough President has ever allocated an entire fiscal year’s capital funding to one cause, and within one city organization. NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County received $15.625M to renovate the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) and mother-baby units. NYC Health + Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health received $18.5M to renovate the outpatient care center, labor and delivery rooms, post-partum recovery rooms, and NICU. NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull received $11M to build a state-of-the-art birthing center. ‘Born in Brooklyn’ Baby Boxes: In November, a total of 500 post-partum families receiving care at select Brooklyn hospitals and clinics received “Born in Brooklyn” baby boxes with free baby supplies and post-partum resources for new parents through a $100,000 grant from the Borough President to Met Council. ‘Healthy Pregnancy’ Public Education Campaign: A few weeks later, Borough President Reynoso launched a $250,000 multimedia public education campaign connecting Brooklynites with a resource guide for a healthy pregnancy informed by the Borough President’s Maternal Health Taskforce. The multicultural campaign included English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole informational ads in bus and train stations in key Brooklyn neighborhoods and across digital platforms to reach Black and Brown communities facing crisis-level maternal mortality rates.