Baldwin and Moore seek to diversify maternal health workforce with “Momnibus”

    About to receive an oral vaccine
    Two-month-old Karina, the child of uninsured parents, receives drops of children's Tylenol after getting a vaccination at a low-cost clinic run by the Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics on July 28, 2009 in Aurora, Colorado. | John Moore/Getty Images

    Stating that Wisconsin’s Black maternal and infant mortality rates are “tragically high,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) joined forces with Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) to address racial disparities in perinatal health care.

    The Perinatal Workforce Act is one component of the aptly named Momnibus Act of 2021, which includes 12 bills designed to improve maternal and child health outcomes. The Perinatal Workforce Act is meant to increase the ranks of health care workers who can offer “culturally congruent” support to women during pregnancies and beyond. 

    “Black women already were forced to bear the brunt of our maternal mortality crisis and now the existing inequities revealed during this pandemic only burden Black mothers even more,” Moore said in a release. “The Momnibus couldn’t be introduced at a more pivotal time. As part of our work to invest in the health of Black mothers, we must diversify the perinatal health care workforce to better reflect the communities they serve.” 

    Black women are three to four times more likely to die from giving birth than white women, according to the legislators. They add that access to maternity care in this country is far from equal: “More than one-third of U.S. counties are ‘maternity care deserts,’ with no hospitals offering obstetric care and zero obstetric providers. Maternity care access is limited in both rural and urban communities: more than one million American women live in maternity care deserts located in large metropolitan areas or urban settings.”

    The Perinatal Workforce Act will also launch research on how culturally congruent care improves outcomes for Black and brown mothers and provide guidance to states on how to promote better outcomes. It will also provide funding for new or established programs that diversify the maternal health workforce and examine social and economic barriers to entering maternal health fields, especially for women of color. 

    The bill has support from more than 160 national organizations and backing from a number of Wisconsin organizations, including University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, UW-Health System, United Way of Dane County, Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, Birthing Project USA of Southeast Wisconsin, Kids Forward, SSM Health, The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, and Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC).  

    “Black mothers need professionals who can serve as a source of support through the birthing experience, who are culturally competent to serve our most vulnerable mothers,” writes Moore. “I am proudly joining my sisters in the Black Maternal Health Caucus along with Wisconsin’s incredible champion, Senator Tammy Baldwin, to raise the urgency of this issue. We will continue fighting in the trenches for maternal justice!”

    THE MORNING NEWSLETTER
    Subscribe now.
    Catherine Capellaro
    Catherine Capellaro is a freelance writer and the arts and culture editor for Isthmus in Madison, Wisconsin. She is also the former managing editor of Rethinking Schools, a former anchor and reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio and WORT-89.9 FM and an accomplished playwright and musician.