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WHAMglobal Solidifies Plans for Role in Future of Maternity Care and Announces Community Fund Applications Open

WHAMglobal continues to make new connections in maternal health leadership. On July 7 and 9, WHAMglobal team members joined other Safer Childbirth Cities project teams from around the country for a two-day virtual Community of Practice Training. The training was organized by the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs in partnership with Merck for Mothers. Over the two half-day sessions, participants had the chance to learn from colleagues working on similar maternal health issues in other communities and reflect on ways that COVID-19 and the uprisings against white supremacy have impacted this important work. Participants ended the session with an opportunity dialogue where small groups discussed potential areas for collaboration across cities to advance their respective project goals.

The WHAMglobal Board of Trustees met on July 27 to discuss how COVID-19 has simultaneously exacerbated the cracks within our systems and exposed new and unique opportunities for reform. The international meeting of minds, led by WHAMglobal Board Chair and Jewish Healthcare Foundation Vice Board Chair Debra Caplan, MPA, brought together board members from around the world, including Australia, Israel, Netherlands, and 12 U.S. States and the District of Columbia. The Board was asked to answer the question: if women were to design the perfect childbirth experience, would it look like what we have today? The simple answer is no. There is a shared understanding that now is the time to rethink and remake the maternal health experience and an urgency to discuss how during this time of uncertainty and disruption we consider what, under ideal conditions, represents the safest, most satisfying, and natural environment for women to give birth.

While no singular approach to maternity care will work for everyone, coordinated activities across the globe are improving access to safe and comprehensive maternity care. The Board had a lively discussion about the impact of COVID-19, the changes that have happened to the maternity care system, and the next advocacy frontiers for WHAMglobal. As we continue to work during the pandemic, emerging technologies could provide national COVID-19 surveillance and offer opportunities for remote monitoring and communications. Raising awareness of midwifery, doulas, and alternative birthing options will be important throughout and after the pandemic, the Board reasoned. This is especially important in the context of policy and reimbursement discussions, if WHAMglobal and the Board health leaders are to increase alternative birthing care access and assure quality of care. Overall, the conversation solidified that WHAMglobal is on the right track to reform the maternal health care system through its focused efforts on value-based payments, Medicaid advocacy, inter-professional training, and community support and activism.

This conversation built on the Jewish Healthcare Foundation's (JHF) recent ROOTS publication, Beyond Medicalization: Midwives & Maternity Care in America, which explores the decline of midwifery and raises critical considerations for alternative maternal health care options. Such discussions are especially significant as the WHO declared 2020 to be the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, calling for greater worldwide attention and honor for these professionals and the health issues they address. Later this fall, JHF will further commit to this theme with the Salk Health Activist Fellowship, which will mobilize action to support midwifery, nursing, and reproductive health issues.

With funding from the Heinz Endowments and Merck for Mothers, the WHAMglobal Community Fund is offering grant support for five community-based organizations. The fund will provide small grants of $20,000 to build collaborative partnerships, coordinate services, share best practices, receive training and technical assistance, and build consensus on priorities for improving maternal health outcomes in communities hardest hit by maternal health disparities. Applications are now open, and the application deadline is Friday, August 21 at 5:00 PM. Apply for the Community Fund here.

Board meeting attendees included: Nadene Alhadeff, Executive Director, Mum for Mum at NCJWA; Ginger Breedlove, PhD, CNM, APRM, FACNM, President and Founder, March for Moms, Inc; Debra Caplan, MPA, Board of Trustees, JHF; Lisa David, MBA, President & CEO, Public Health Solutions; Lynn Eckert, MD, MPH, DrPH, Director, Academic Programs, Partners Healthcare International; Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD, President & CEO, JHF; Margje Haverkamp, MD, Senior Policy Advisor, Harvard School of Public Health; Karen Remley, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAP, Senior Adviser to Office of the Commissioner, COVID-19 Response at Virginia Department of Health; Fleur Sack, MD, Family Physician, Fleur S. Sack LLC; Nan Strauss, JD, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Every Mother Counts; Laurie Zephyrin, MD, MPH, MBA, Vice President, Health Care Delivery System Reform, The Commonwealth Fund; Usha Raj, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, University of Illinois at Chicago; Carolyn Clancy, MD, Executive in Charge, Veterans Health Administration; Susan Dentzer, Senior Policy Fellow, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy; Jennifer Moore, PhD, RN, Executive Director, Institute for Medicaid Innovation. 

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