This commentary by Mamatoto Village is part of Partners in Maternal Health and Birth Justice, an ongoing series supported by the Commonwealth Fund spotlighting community-based organizations that work toward maternal health equity.
Mamatoto Village is a Black led health and human service nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 7, which is located east of the Anacostia River. Mamatoto’s mission-driven work uses community-centered and whole-person approaches to improve maternal health care and outcomes for Black women and birthing people living in Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County, Maryland. Mamatoto is devoted to the mission of creating career pathways for Black women in maternal health and human services and serving Black women and birthing people through providing accessible perinatal support services designed to equip them with the necessary tools to make the most informed decisions in their maternity care, parenting, and lives.
Addressing a Community Need
Mamatoto Village began as a concept during an undergraduate course taken by Aza Nedhari, who would go on to co-found the organization and serve as executive director. This concept sought to provide safe, compassionate, and comprehensive maternal health services and support to Black women and birthing people and their families. In 2012, after working several years as doulas and feeling as if their training had been inadequate, co-founders Aza Nedhari and Cassietta Pringle formally launched Mamatoto Village. Through their lived and professional experiences, Nedhari and Pringle witnessed stark racial disparities in maternal health outcomes for Black women and birthing people residing in communities east of the Anacostia River and neighboring Prince George’s County. Responding to this community need, both co-founders developed Mamatoto Village as an interlocking model of community care––seeking to diversify and train the perinatal health workforce and provide accessible, dignified, and high-quality maternal health care.
Mamatoto Village exists against the backdrop of statistics that paint a grim picture of Black women and birthing people’s maternal health outcomes. In 2020, 861 women died during or after pregnancy in the United States–293 of whom were Black. In Washington, D.C., 90 percent of maternal deaths occur amongst non-Hispanic Black women, and 64 percent of maternal deaths occur to women living east of the Anacostia River in Wards 7 and 8. At Mamatoto Village, we believe that every woman and birthing person deserves to watch their baby and family grow. To positively impact maternal health outcomes in the greater Washington, D.C. area, Mamatoto delivers two core programs: the Mothers Rising Home Visitation (MRHV) and Perinatal Health Worker Training (PHWT) programs.
Mamatoto’s MRHV program delivers tailored, culturally resonant perinatal care services to Medicaid-eligible women and birthing people living in Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County, Maryland. MRHV clients receive care from teams of perinatal health workers, including perinatal community health workers, community birth workers, health and wellness specialists, and lactation consultants. During their pregnancies and through three months postpartum, MRHV clients receive coordinated services such as health education, social support, resource navigation, home visiting, food and nutrition services (including grocery deliveries), mental health counseling, lactation guidance and consultations, and postpartum support. Yearly, the MRHV program serves 300 women and birthing people and their families throughout the region. Since its inception, the MRHV program has served over 2,400 women. From 2019 to 2021, the MRHV program maintained a low preterm birth rate (under 15 percent), a high breastfeeding initiation rate (over 85 percent), and a 0 percent maternal mortality rate.
Mamatoto’s PHWT program strengthens and diversifies the local perinatal health workforce by training women and birthing people to become community-based health and human service providers. Mamatoto’s training curriculum centers on coursework in anatomy and physiology, community health work, counseling skills, mental health, healing and reproductive justice, and lactation. Mamatoto’s training program requires trainees to complete a minimum of 161 in-person learning hours, and participants typically dedicate at least ten to fifteen hours to studying each week. Since its inception, the PHWT program has trained more than 200 women who have started and sustained careers as physicians, midwives, doulas, licensed social workers, and board-certified lactation consultants.
Advancing Mamatoto’s Growth
Growing and sustaining the transformative work happening at Mamatoto Village requires generosity, financial investment, and acts of kindness that yield deep impact. At Mamatoto, we center the practice of justice in all aspects of work, including fundraising. We engage with individual donors, charitable foundations, corporations, insurers, and government entities that desire to begin and sustain transformational and bidirectional partnerships aligned with our vision–healthy mamas, healthy babies, and healthy communities. Mamatoto Village utilizes funding to build staffing capacity; maintain pay equity; invest in employee wellness; create, sustain, and scale mission-critical programs; provide emergency resources to families; and support general operating expenses.
In the coming years, Mamatoto Village will expand its efforts by scaling our PHWT and MRHV Programs; developing a maternity case management electronic health record to complement service delivery; increasing our programmatic reach and impact in Washington, D.C. and neighboring Prince George’s County, Maryland; increasing staffing capacity; and making strategic investments in data collection and evaluation efforts to strengthen our evidence base. To deliver and build on this work in a sustainable manner requires reliable and transformational funding. At Mamatoto, we believe that reproductive justice and maternal health equity should be a tangible reality for Black women and birthing people. With awareness and continued support of our work, we can make our vision a reality for Black women and birthing people in DC area and across the nation.
For more information about Mamatoto Village, please visit mamatotovillage.org or email [email protected].