I am on a mission to equalize the experience of giving birth in this country for every person.
I had my first child days after completing my master’s degree at Columbia University. I was unwed and on student insurance. At the hospital, which was supposedly one of the best in New York City based on all the mainstream ranking services, I was completely disrespected, my wishes were ignored and I left feeling traumatized and violated. I was treated like an unwed black woman with basic insurance and I always wondered why a hospital that had treated others so well, treated me so poorly.
Researchers at Stanford University and others have documented what women have been saying all the time — implicit bias impacts the care and treatment we receive. In the most recent Listening to Mothers national childbearing survey, 21% of black mothers and 19% of Hispanic mothers hospitalized for childbirth reported perceptions of poor treatment due to race, ethnicity, cultural background, or language. Yet we continue to only rank maternity services on availability of private rooms, the food and whether you can have overnight visitors.
This focus on amenities versus the “experience” is rooted in a false assumption that the care will be equal for everyone. Unfortunately, the evidence proves this is simply not true. We need a new metric.
My name is Kimberly Seals Allers. I’m an award-winning journalist turned speaker and advocate focused on advocating for equity in maternal and infant health. For the past seven years, I have run on-the-ground community-partnered projects in Birmingham, AL, New Orleans, LA, Detroit and Philadelphia, to name a few, to better understand the lived experiences of birth and breastfeeding in low-income communities of color.
In 2017, I published my fifth book, The Big Letdown — How Medicine, Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding, a socio-cultural exploration of the economics, politics and culture of breastfeeding in America. My commentaries on the racial complexities of mothering and health have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post and HuffPost, among others.
Every one deserves an empowered birth experience where they are honored and respected for who they are, not treated differently, disrespectfully or inadequately because of who they are.
I created the concept of the irth app to ensure that possibility for everyone.
Learn more about me at www.KimberlySealsAllers.com
Ericka Dorsey, M.Ed., CLEC is the new Project Coordinator for Irth. She is also the co-founder of Flourishing Families, a community-based nonprofit centered around motherhood, breastfeeding, and wellness support for black mothers based in the San Joaquin Valley (CA).
Ericka is a proud fourth-generation, former breastfeeding mother of three and has a deep desire to listen to and find solutions to increase breastfeeding rates for Black women and other vulnerable populations. She is also committed to amplifying the voices and stories of black women to both advocate for and inform policies to ultimately foster improved maternal and child health outcomes and build stronger, holistically supported families. She is very passionate about addressing the historical systemic racism and implicit bias which have persisted in literally every facet of American culture and caused irreparable damage to the lives of people of color in America.
She looks forward to participating in the development of an app that tells the story of women of color, their needs, their preferences, the services they’ve been asking for but too often dying before receiving. Ericka is most excited about the understanding that will be gained through the lens of storytelling captured by this repository of experiences, which will inform strategies for improving the care and support of families of color as well as other marginalized groups and will right the ship by providing equitable, bias-free care for all.
Irth moved from concept to mobile prototype thanks to an amazing team at the "Make the Breast Pump Not Suck" Hackathon in March 2018.
New App, Addressing Core Issue of the Black Maternal Mortality Crises, Receives $200,000 Grant from Tara Health Foundation
Innovative, Consumer-Centered “Yelp”-Like Approach Leverages Data to Eliminate Bias in Health Care
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Kimberly Seals Allers | firstname.lastname@example.org
(July 26th, 2019)— New York, NY —-Narrative Nation, Inc. a non-profit that creates multi-media content and new technologies to eradicate health disparities, received a $200,000 grant from the Tara Health Foundation to develop its signature digital platform, Irth (as in Birth, but without the B for bias), a tool to identify and eradicate bias in maternity and infant care.
Irth is a groundbreaking mobile application with dual market uses that will catalyze the health equity movement. Irth recognizes that implicit bias is a significant barrier to fair treatment for all. Bias in care has been directly linked to the high black maternal mortality and black infant mortality rates. However, women and other birthing people from marginalized groups have no way of knowing how someone like them experienced a certain doctor or hospital.
As a consumer-facing app, Irth is a “Yelp-like” review and rating platform for healthcare providers and hospitals that allows you to find a review from someone with a similar racial, ethnic or socio-economic profile or leave a review for someone like you. This empowers consumers with truly peer-based information for health care decision-making.
On the back end, the digital platform builds the first ever repository of experiences of care among marginalized groups, and creates an unprecedented qualitative data set that identifies trends to work directly with providers to improve scores.
Irth is the brainchild of Narrative Nation founder Kimberly Seals Allers, an award-winning journalist and former senior editor at Essence. While pregnant as a graduate student at Columbia University, she asked several of her white girlfriends for a hospital recommendation. She delivered at the same hospital that received glowing reviews from her white peers, but left feeling violated and traumatized. “At that time of my life, I was on student insurance and I was not yet married. Despite my career and academic accomplishments, I was treated like an unwed black women with basic insurance. I lived that. It was clear to me that not all people experience the same place the same way,” Seals Allers says.
That initial experience was further validated by nearly a decade of hearing the birth stories of black women and other women of color in her maternal advocacy work developing community-partnered interventions in several cities, including Detroit, Philadelphia and New Orleans.
"Bias in maternity and infant care is a serious threat to optimal health outcomes. We are delighted to support the Irth digital tool and partner with Kimberly Seals Allers in the important work of reducing black maternal mortality and morbidity and improving the quality of care for women and birthing people from all marginalized groups,” said Ruth Shaber, MD, president of Tara Health Foundation.
The grant will fund a two-phase project to conduct immersive, community review collection campaigns in several cities. Then, key hospitals will be identified as potential partners for a pilot project to turn Irth’s data into actionable practice improvements for respectful care for all. Learn more about the Irth digital platform at www.birthwithoutbias.com
About Narrative Nation, Inc.
Narrative Nation is a New York City-based non-profit that champions health equity by democratizing how the story of health disparities is told. Narrative Nation co-creates culturally relevant, narrative-centered technologies and media to foster systemic change and to eradicate health disparities. The unique, by us for us approach, puts members of the most affected communities at the center of its theory of change. Ultimately, Narrative Nation shifts the narrative of health disparities by shifting the narrator. Learn more at www.WeWriteUs.org
About Tara Foundation
Tara Health Foundation is dedicated to identifying and supporting innovative solutions that improve the health and well-being of women and girls. Tara Health is also committed to engaging peers to join in piloting and demonstrating the use of creative philanthropic capital to drive social and financial returns. Learn more at www.tarahealthfoundation.org