The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust announced a $2 million, three-year grant for the Arnhold Institute for Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to work with NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and Queens to expand a community-based doula program. The program will focus on providing doula care to pregnant people experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness, and those who are incarcerated, two populations that often face some of the highest health needs and complications.
The Helmsley grant will support community-engaged planning, implementation, and evaluation of full-spectrum birth-related doula services. These efforts will build upon the “HoPE” Program (the Helping Promote Birth Equity through Community-Based Doula Care Program) to expand access to doula care within the public healthcare system in Queens and mitigate maternal and infant health disparities, particularly for people of color. Under the leadership of Dr. Sheela Maru, MD, MPH, HoPE launched at Elmhurst and Queens hospitals in early 2022, in collaboration with two doula organizations, Ancient Song Doula Services and Caribbean Women’s Health Association.
“With the support from Helmsley, we can better assist our community members who have historically faced disproportionately high adverse childhood experiences, chronic health challenges, limited support during the critical perinatal period, and poor maternal and child health outcomes. Community-based doula care offers us a way to change this trajectory,” said Dr. Maru, NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst Attending Physician and Assistant Professor of Global Health and Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“Right now, New Yorkers experiencing homelessness or incarceration are twice as likely as their housed peers to experience negative birth outcomes,” said Tracy Perrizo, Program Officer of the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s New York City Program. “At Helmsley, we look for solutions that reduce barriers to care for those with complex needs and limited access to quality services. Expanding doula services for those who are sheltered or incarcerated can improve birth experiences. With continued support from doulas who understand their challenges and needs, we are optimistic that this program can enhance participants’ overall engagement with healthcare and promote long-term well-being for themselves and their children.”
The community-engaged planning for the program has begun and services are expected to launch later this year. Evaluation of the initiative will examine health metrics for both babies and birthing parents; doula care and healthcare utilization; and demographic impacts to help determine the effectiveness and feasibility of further expanding tailored doula services across New York City.
The HoPE Program is part of a larger effort known as the New York City Partnership, a collaboration between Mount Sinai’s Arnhold Institute for Global Health and NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and Queens founded in 2018. The two health systems also have a long-standing service and training relationship.