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The Challenge

Expectant and new parents are often forced to navigate complicated health care and social service systems just to get the essential resources and care they need. These broken systems disproportionately impact Black women, who, in New York City, are three times more likely to experience childbirth complications and eight times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

Our Work

Health Leads’ New York Maternal Health Initiative is bringing together health care systems, community-based organizations, and Black parents to reimagine maternal and postpartum healthcare. By improving access to public benefits, removing barriers to accessing essential resources, and empowering caregivers to support parents through their pregnancy and postpartum experience, we’re improving health outcomes for parents and their families by ensuring they have the resources they need to thrive.

Focus Areas

Increase access to doula services in communities most impacted by systemic racial inequities


In partnership with the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Network (MHQIN), Healthy Start Brooklyn, and the New York Coalition for Doula Access (NYCDA), we’re increasing access to doula care for Black and low-income patients and ensuring doulas have the support, resources, and agency they need to support expecting and new parents.

Learn more about NYCDA and how you can join these efforts here.

Related resources

  • Barriers And Opportunities: Doula Care In The Age Of The Pandemic – This resource shares learnings from a series of focus groups Health Leads conducted with Doulas working in New York City, presenting challenges, opportunities, and recommendations for how institutions can better integrate and support doulas into the care team.

Streamline and simplify access to public health benefits

In partnership with the Brownsville Multi Service Family Health and Wellness Centers, Health Leads is working to to increase new prenatal patients’ enrollment in available benefits like he Women, Infants & Children Program (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicaid by testing promising practices to streamline the enrollment process, including text message outreach. The findings of our pilot program at the BMS Family Health and Wellness Center in Brownsville will help inform state-wide strategies for increasing benefits enrollment for perinatal patients and their families. 

Related resources

  • NYC WIC: Community Health Workers, Localized Data And The Path To Healthier Families – This case study explores a New York City-based collaboration between NYC Health + Hospitals, New York State Department of Health, Health Leads, and the Robin Hood Foundation to drive site and system-wide improvements that streamline access to WIC benefits for eligible families. 

Ensure expectant and new mothers have access to trusted, reliable health information

In partnership with the New York Vaccine Literacy Campaign at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy, Health Leads have launched a co-designed pilot to improve vaccine confidence among mothers and birthing people in the New York area. This includes prototyping the effectiveness of video testimonials of mothers and birthing people sharing their Covid-19 vaccination experience during pregnancy and postpartum.

Related resources

Ensure expectant and new mothers have access to trusted, reliable health information

Health Leads continues to work with local maternal health organizations in New York, to ensure expectant and new parents can access all the resources they need for a healthy pregnancy and good birth outcomes. Together, we’re improving the coordination of essential resource referrals by strengthening and expanding existing community resource networks and breaking down silos between clinics and communities.In partnership with the Brooklyn Perinatal Network (BPN), we’re working to promote a resource network model that shares power, governance, and decision-making among community partners and health system participants.

Related resources