Providing employment pathways for culturally diverse women and improving health service access and outcomes for people experiencing disadvantage during pregnancy, birth and early parenting.
Evidence shows that respectful, support from a trusted caregiver throughout pregnancy results in more positive birth experiences and a lifetime of better maternal and child health outcomes. Unfortunately, people with the greatest need for continuous care– those experiencing financial hardship, family violence or homelessness and new migrants, refugees and asylum seekers – have the least access to it. Birth for Humankind’s Doula Support Program is bridging this gap, but our current skilled volunteer program model is approaching capacity.
This 2-year project pilots and evaluates a community-based doula model that will increase access to free pregnancy and birth and parenting support for the most vulnerable Victorian women and babies. The project tests and refines an employment pathway for women of bicultural backgrounds trained as doulas, who may face barriers in accessing skilled and flexible paid work. Birth for Humankind will employ two 4 person team working in a group practice model to provide birth and/or postnatal support to an additional 150 clients in our doula support program. The team-based approach and enhanced doula availability will increase Birth for Humankind’s capacity to provide more than 400 services each year a 40% capacity increase on our current service by pilot end.
This project increases access to high-quality individualised care from a known, trusted support person for people facing discrimination and disadvantage in the maternal health system improving birth experiences and outcomes (1) ; builds sustainable employment pathways for bicultural women as community doulas (2); and,increases the sustainability and scalability of Birth for Humankind’s doula support service now and for the future (3).
Outcome 1. An additional 150 women and birthing people experiencing financial and social disadvantage access social and emotional support during pregnancy, birth and early parenting from a skilled doula (increasing total annual caseload to> 400 services)
Outcome 2: Eight bicultural women facing barriers to entering the workforce will access supportive, skilled employment, testing the feasibility of a paid doula workforce.
Measure of success: 75% of bicultural doula trainees reporting development of confidence and leadership skills through practical experience and mentoring in a professional context and are able to work effectively as community based doulas in the maternal health system.
Outcome 3: Birth for Humankind builds a diverse and sustainable doula workforce meeting needs of clients and employees with potential for scale.
Measures of success: 75% of Birth for Humankind bicultural doulas reporting reduced barriers to workforce participation at 6 and 12 months and remain in the doula workforce at 12 and 18 months post-recruitment.
The project will have a robust MEAL system collecting routine quantitative and qualitative data to measure service outcomes, staff engagement and organisational effectiveness.This includes pre and post intake phone surveys for all Birth for Humankind clients.
Anonymous quarterly/ staff surveys regularly monitor employment satisfaction and confidence and reveal areas for improvement and development.
The doula teams will be managed by an experienced Program supervisor with regular group and individual goal setting, opportunities for debrief and clinical supervision.Each doula will also have an experienced mentor to support the development of their personal doula "toolkit" in a supportive environment.
Organisational impact and evaluation reporting communicates the cumulative impacts and successes of all Birth for Humankind programs, including this pilot.
An external formative and summative evaluation will collect baseline/endline data from service users, employees and referral partners (i.e. public maternity hospitals and social work departments) to document lessons around increased access to community doula programs in public hospitals settings.
Online dissemination workshops targeting key stakeholders such as health peak bodies, maternity services and specific service for CALD women and birthing people will be held at project completion and data shared at relevant health and community sector conferences and workshops.
Birth for Humankind is a not-for-profit organisation working to achieve equitable maternal health and wellbeing. Birth for Humankind provides and advocates for respectful, pregnancy, birth and early parenting support for women and gender diverse birthing people facing financial hardship and a range of interconnected social barriers to accessing appropriate maternal health care. Birth for Humankind delivers free trauma-informed and culturally sensitive programs that provide continuity of maternity care to people experiencing family violence, homelessness, perinatal depression or anxiety and social isolation as well as new migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum.
Since 2014, Birth for Humankind have helped more than 1000 individuals and families have positive pregnancy, birth and parenting experiences.
– Doula support – skilled birth professionals (doulas) provide continuous support during pregnancy, birth and early parenting.
– Education – childbirth education in community languages to increase preparedness and confidence for birth and support clients to navigate the health system.
– Research and advocacy – influencing the maternal health system to better support those experiencing disadvantage through research, programmatic evidence and advocacy.
– Professional training – doula training for bicultural women and professional development training for maternal health workers.