AHS & ACPHD Launches Prenatal and Postpartum Care Program
Developed For, By and With Black People


Alameda Health System (AHS) in collaboration with the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) is launching BElovedBIRTH Black Centering, an evolution in the prenatal and postpartum model of care delivered in group settings and developed by, for and with Black people. This innovative, Black led model of care is rooted in antiracism and the birth justice movement.

“Racism is causing Black birthing people and their babies to experience pregnancy and birth complications at much higher rates,” said Jyesha Wren, Midwife at AHS’s Highland Hospital and Co-Founder and Program Coordinator of BElovedBIRTH Black Centering. “We developed BElovedBIRTH Black Centering as one answer to this crisis. Our Black community led intervention aims to honor and celebrate Black people, Black birth, and the Black community,” said Wren.

Through BElovedBIRTH Black Centering, AHS and ACPHD are not only leading the way in improving care experiences and outcomes for Black mothers and their babies, it is providing critically needed safety net care for Alameda County’s most vulnerable communities.

“The literature tells us that racial and cultural concordance between patients and providers is associated with improved clinical outcomes, higher quality of care, and better communication during visits. BElovedBIRTH Black Centering offers us hope and we are thrilled to partner with the ACPHD and to be able to introduce it at AHS,” said Dr. Kevin Smith, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The BElovedBIRTH Black Centering was made possible through the California Department of Public Health’s Perinatal Equity Initiative and the federal Healthy Start program and the team is led by AHS Black midwives and ACPHD staff in collaboration with Black family support advocates, lactation consultants, doulas, and OB-GYNs. Centering Pregnancy is an evidence-based group prenatal care model that has been shown to help eliminate racism-based disparities in preterm birth.

”Disparities in maternal and infant mortality in the African American community continue to be a national public health crisis and Alameda County is no exception,” said Anna Gruver, Director and Unit Administrator of Maternal, Paternal, Child Adolescent Health for ACPHD. “We are happy to be an ally and supporter of BElovedBIRTH Black Centering. I believe that through this unique program and partnership, participants will experience high-quality care from a dedicated and expert group of providers,” she said.

The BElovedBIRTH Black Centering is consistent with other AHS efforts to improve birth outcomes for all moms.
AHS has been at the forefront of transforming care and improving birthing outcomes through midwife-led programs. For more than 40 years, AHS – Highland Hospital has had a midwife-led prenatal and delivery program for the patients and the community we serve. Today, 70% of all deliveries in our delivery center at Highland Hospital are led by midwives. That is 9 times the national average.

CenteringPregnancy prenatal care is available in both English and Spanish at Highland Hospital and Hayward Wellness. In addition, after our patients give birth, they can receive postnatal care and support through CenteringParenting sessions available at Hayward Wellness.

The first cohort of AHS patients who self-identify as Black and have similar due dates began meeting virtually on October 1, 2020 for ongoing guidance, information, and resources to support healthy pregnancies and successful deliveries. Groups will meet weekly throughout pregnancy and into the early postpartum period. BElovedBIRTH Black Centering will support six cohorts in the first year.

During the group sessions participants will have private time with their midwife or OB-GYN to check on their individual health status; then they will have dedicated time for group discussions and activities to connect around common issues. The group sessions and accompanying parent and childbirth education materials are designed specifically to meet the needs of Black birthing people.

AHS recruits patients to participate through outreach at their Eastmont Wellness and other AHS clinics. In addition, AHS and the ACPHD will collaborate with the Alameda Health Consortium clinics to raise awareness of this new program and receive referrals for enrollment.

The ongoing challenges of COVID-19 did not stop the launch of the BElovedBIRTH Black Centering program. Originally designed for in-person group sessions, AHS’s Telehealth services are now bringing the program to participants in the comfort of their homes.

Each member of the group will receive technology support and resources only if needed to connect and participate virtually. Groups meet monthly for the first two sessions and then move to bi-weekly sessions.

“The launch of BElovedBIRTH Black Centering enables AHS to provide Black mothers and birthing people with the highest-quality prenatal focused on improving the experiences and perinatal outcomes of Alameda County’s Black birthing people,” said Dr. Smith. “It also builds on our commitment to eliminating racism-based health care disparities and to promoting maternal child health and wellness for all women in our community.”

For more information on BElovedBIRTH Black Centering at AHS – Eastmont Wellness, contact Jyesha Wren, midwife (CNM) and Co-Founder & Program Coordinator, at jywren@alamedahealthsystem.org.