Part of the Puzzle: Reflecting on the Birth Justice Philly Summit

three women on a stage
Maternity Care Coalition joined other birth workers, advocates, and legislators from Philadelphia for the inaugural Birth Justice Philly Summit.

On October 26, representatives from MCC joined other birth workers, advocates, and legislators from Philadelphia for the inaugural Birth Justice Philly Summit. Hosted by Organized Voices for Action (OVA), a multidisciplinary coalition focused on achieving birth justice in Philadelphia, the Birth Justice Philly Summit addressed the systemic barriers Black and brown communities in Philadelphia must face to achieve equitable pregnancy outcomes.  

The goal of the summit was to “spotlight various solutions to create an equitable future for birthing people of Philadelphia.” Attendees walked away with a better understanding of the issues in Philadelphia, how stakeholders in the city are coming together to address these issues, where investments still need to be made, and how they can be part of the solution.  

MCC experts were featured throughout the program, with Samia Bristow, MCC’s Vice President of Programs, and Sara Jann Heinze, MCC’s Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy, both presenting. 

Samia spoke during the breakout session “Knocking on Doors, Changing Lives: Maternal Home Visitation Programs for Empowered Families” along with Lakeshia Montgomery, a Maternal Health Nurse Manager with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health; and Shukkriyah Mitchell, the Senior Director of Outreach and Advocacy with the National Nurse-Led Consortium. The session focused on the transformative impact of home visitation programs in empowering families and improving maternal and child health outcomes.  

Sara participated in the policy panel discussion, “Leveraging Public Policy to Promote Sustainability in Maternal Health.” She was joined on the panel by Pennsylvania Speaker of the House, Joanna McClinton; Amal Bass, Co-Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project; Sindhu K. Srinivas, Professor and Associate Chief Medical Officer at the University of Pennsylvania; and Maggie Clark, the Managing Director of Policy and Partnerships at The Reilly Group, Inc. Sara discussed the federal maternal health policy landscape and the importance of establishing a universal paid leave program in Pennsylvania. 

Additional sessions covered topics ranging from strengthening hospital and community partnerships in Philadelphia, the power of local investment in community-based birthing centers, innovations in postpartum support, LGBTQ+ considerations in perinatal care, and more.  

Candy Hagamin, MCC’s Director of Individual and Corporate Giving attended the session “Spreading Joy” hosted by the Philly Joy Bank. The Philly Joy Bank “has developed a guaranteed income pilot that will provide pregnant Philadelphians with no strings attached cash with the goal of improving birth outcomes.” During the session, Candy was surprised and distraught to learn that Philadelphia has the highest rate of infant mortality among large cities in the United States. She was also impressed with the Philly Joy Bank’s innovation and intentionality in determining creative ways to address this crisis.  

Mahalia Sealy, MCC’s Training Coordinator for the Doula and Lactation Program, left the summit feeling inspired. She noted that the sessions drove home the important reminder that maternal health is not linear or one dimensional. In her words, “knowing that Philadelphia is actively working on supporting maternal health outcomes, with a keen focus on Black maternal health, is great to see and I’m happy to be a part of the puzzle.” 

More photos from the event are available here