To help birthing parents and their partners grow, build, and care for their families with dignity, we must acknowledge the ways in which race, gender, wealth, location, and more influence their access to resources and health outcomes. Care before, during, and after birth is deeply biased in the U.S., and Maven recognizes the important role we play in improving care and reducing disparities for all families.
Welcoming Dr. Dawn Godbolt, PhD, to Maven
We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Dawn Godbolt, PhD, joining Maven as our new Director of Health Equity. In her role, she will work alongside Maven’s clinical team to expand Maven’s footprint to historically marginalized communities and ensure we continue to provide equitable, culturally-affirming care to all members. Dr. Godbolt’s early career was in the emergency housing field, and she holds her PhD in sociology with a concentration on race, class, and gender inequalities. She comes to Maven from the National Birth Equity Collaborative and the National Partnership for Women and Families, where she advocated for innovative maternal health policies across the country.
We sat down with Dr. Godbolt to learn more about her work, her thoughts about how to provide equitable care in the U.S., and why she’s excited about joining Maven.
Tell us about yourself and your background
I like to begin by saying that I am the granddaughter of sharecroppers from the American South. By starting the conversation in this place, I think it helps people understand my journey to where I am and the historical context surrounding it.
I consider myself first to be a race scholar. I hold a Ph.D. in sociology with a concentration on race, class, and gender inequalities–my research uses an intersectional approach to help us better understand the social and structural forces that produce inequality in society. While I was in graduate school, I took a reproductive health course, and during that class, I had a visceral reaction to learning that Black mothers and babies die at a much higher rate than any other group. It deeply impacted me to learn how the maternal and infant mortality rates are so starkly drawn along racial lines. These disparities reminded me of what I saw when working in the emergency housing sector: the social conditions in which we all exist impact the ability for communities, mothers, and babies to thrive, and I knew then that health equity, and more specifically maternal health, was the cause I needed to devote my life’s work to.
After I finished my Ph.D., I came home to Washington D.C. where I worked in the health policy space as a maternal healthcare expert and advocate, which is what I’ve done for the past five years before joining Maven.
Why did you decide to move from maternal health policy to Maven?
In the maternal health policy space, we held workshops, commissioned papers, developed guidance, and drafted legislation–but we didn’t offer a product that could help directly fix the problem. This is why I’m excited about coming to Maven–it’s a product that we can use, implement, and measure to actually improve maternal health outcomes.
Maven is uniquely positioned to drive real impact, as we have a clinically-backed model that is shown to reduce C-section rates and NICU stays. It can also connect birthing parents and their partners with the specialists and resources they need to support themselves and their families outside of a 15-minute in-person doctor’s appointment. I haven’t come across another product like Maven, and I’m excited to see how Maven, which has been incredibly successful so far, can be applied to help birthing parents who are disproportionately affected by the maternal health crisis.
Why is the maternal health crisis disproportionately affecting Black and Indigenous people?
So much of the maternal health crisis is driven by a lack of care, understanding, and listening. You hear the same story over and over again: a Black woman tells her care provider about an issue, her care provider disregards the patient’s own expertise on her body, due in part to the provider’s implicit or explicit bias, and then the mother or her baby die.
The maternal morbidity rates are up to three times higher for Black and Indigenous birthing parents compared to white parents, and when we unpack what’s driving these health disparities, it’s not access to health insurance, nor is it education levels. For Black women, it doesn’t matter how good your insurance is or what credentials you have after your name–your risk of death due to pregnancy-related causes remains higher than white women who are high school dropouts.
When looking at the maternal health crisis, we know that bad public policy exacerbates social risk factors like a lack of access to affordable and safe housing, nutritious and healthy food, reliable transportation, and time for recreation and rest contribute to outcomes, but there is also something deeper at play. Research has shown that living in a racialized society raises stress levels among people of color, and this stress is impacting the physical health of those who experience it. By the time many birthing parents are at the age where they start a family, the physical impacts of this stress can be absolutely devastating and tragic. All of these disparities are byproducts of systemic racism, and we see it manifest in our mothers and babies failing to thrive.
How can companies like Maven best reach underserved communities?
One of the hardest things for well-resourced organizations to do when entering a community is to gain the trust and support of the community members. There are healthcare leaders and community-based organizations who are already on the ground supporting pregnant women, but these organizations are typically understaffed and operating on shoestring budgets. Amplifying, supporting, and enhancing the work that these community leaders are doing is one of the best ways to reach these historically marginalized populations, and working alongside community leaders offers a respect and dignity that is often missing in these collaborations. A large part of my role as Director of Health Equity revolves around helping Maven understand how to best partner with and support the people who are already doing this work.
Another aspect we need to be aware of when expanding Maven’s reach is trust. There is a lot of mistrust in the healthcare system from low-income communities, as well as Black and Indigenous communities, because of the poor treatment we’ve historically received through the healthcare system. When Maven enters these communities, it’s essential that we build a foundation of trust and that we don’t use, abuse, or exploit that trust. Maven has a real responsibility stepping into this space to make sure we’re good actors and we acknowledge and respect the people and communities that we’re helping. If we’re careful at Maven, we can help move the needle forward and really drive progress and change in reducing many of the maternal health disparities we see today.
What are you most excited about in working with Maven?
With Maven being the largest digital healthcare provider for women’s and family health, there’s a responsibility to ensure that we are expanding access for all people. It’s exciting to have a product like Maven that is offered through employers, but not everyone’s employer will provide a benefit like Maven. The low-wage job sector, which is predominantly staffed by women of color, will likely not have access to Maven through their work.
The most exciting thing about Maven to me is our expanding partnerships with the Medicaid population. Nearly 50% of women across the country are covered by Medicaid when they give birth, and we can help provide low-income people with the same resources and care as people who are insured by their employer. I’m looking forward to connecting these populations with Maven and driving outcomes, whether it’s through reducing C-sections, reducing the low birth weight rate, or minimizing emergency department admissions. We’ll also be giving Medicaid populations access to on-demand resources through Maven–if a mother is up in the middle of the night and her infant won’t latch, she can immediately pull up resources or make an appointment on the Maven app with a lactation consultant to help. Maven can be a truly invaluable resource for expecting and current parents in these populations.
To learn more about how Maven is providing more equitable care for all birthing mothers, contact us today.
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