Beloved Birth Black Centering, the innovative group perinatal care program by and for Black birthing people, celebrated its third-year anniversary with a red-carpet bash in downtown Oakland on Oct. 2.
The program, which is delivered by Alameda Health System (AHS), the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD), and the Beloved Birth Collective, provides group perinatal care by, for, and with Black people — and it’s leading to better outcomes for the families involved.
Beloved Birth’s unique, Black-centered approach to eliminating racism-based disparities in Black birth experiences was novel when it began in 2020. It launched with strong leadership from Beloved Birth Program Director and Midwife Jyesha Wren, strong commitment and collaboration from ACPHD, funding from ACPHD’s Perinatal Equity Initiative, and steadfast support from AHS Chief Executive Officer (CEO) James Jackson.
According to Jackson, helping Black mothers and children is more than a job. It’s personal.
His father, Dr. James Jackson, was deeply concerned about racial disparities in birthing outcomes in his Oakland community back in the 1980s, decades before it was recognized as a national crisis. Jackson helped pioneer the incorporation of midwives into obstetric services and continued to be a lifelong advocate for maternal health as Chair of Maternal and Child Health at Highland Hospital.
That legacy is why CEO Jackson said he so strongly supports Beloved Birth now.
“This is a continuation of my father’s work. I know he is now smiling down on it,” CEO Jackson said during a panel discussion at the anniversary party. “What started as a vision has become the standard of care, and I’m so honored to continue to support this work.”
Three years in, Beloved Birth Black Centering is gaining the attention of policy leaders, health providers, and the press for providing an answer to the Black maternal health crisis that’s working.
“I have not seen any other place in the world where Black women have been allowed to do this work,” Wren said. “Alameda County has done something great. And we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. The Black Panthers started anti-racist community health care clinics right here in Oakland. The late Dr. Jackson planted the seeds of this work at Highland Hospital, and leaders like James Jackson have done something very special to allow us to do the interventions that we know work. The answers are in the community, we just have to make space for them.”
CEO Jackson said he would love to see the Beloved Birth model expand to other health systems.
“People know us as the trauma center, and we are,” he said. “But we’re so much more. I believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, and we’re seeing that Beloved is actually impacting drivers of infant mortality and maternal mortality. We know that this works. We can share this with the world and I’m excited that we have the opportunity to do that.”