The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Johnson County adds new doula program with federal COVID-19 funds

The program is aimed at increasing the number of trained doulas in Johnson County and improving maternal health outcomes in disadvantaged communities.
Carly Schrum
Johnson County Public Health building sign is seen Iowa City on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023.

Johnson County is implementing a new program funded by COVID-19 relief funds to train doulas and improve maternal health outcomes for families.

The program will focus on training doulas and providing county-funded doula services to those eligible through American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief funds, the county board of health announced Monday.

Doulas provide support to expecting parents during labor, birth, and the postpartum period.

Johnson County Public Health Director Danielle Pettit-Majewski said the program was inspired by similar programs in five other Iowa counties.

“We were really trying to mirror what is happening in those other counties by trying to improve maternal health outcomes,” Pettit-Majewski said. “In Johnson County, a lot of the women that we serve are Black, are immigrants, so we want to make sure that we are really serving those folks who are being most impacted.”

According to the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, Black pregnant individuals experience the most disparities in health outcomes during birth compared to white pregnant individuals.

Veronica Bair, the Johnson County maternal, child, and adolescent health coordinator, said the county will provide reimbursement for birth work done by doulas working in the program.

“We want to make sure these doulas are getting paid for their services because right now it isn’t covered by Medicaid,” Bair said. “That’s something that we would love to see in the future, but we really don’t want low-income folks to miss out on the opportunity to get this service because of cost.”

Johnson County is partnering with Rachel Wickersham, founder of Doula Consultants, LLC, to provide training for new doulas in the program. Wickersham has been a doula for 30 years and has trained doulas for 20 years.

“I’m thrilled Johnson County is going to set up a program that serves individuals who might not otherwise be able to afford independent doula care,” Wickersham said. “Having better access will make a real difference in outcomes for parents.”

Wickersham said several states have started efforts to implement statewide Medicaid reimbursement for doula care. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, 10 states and Washington, D.C. have incorporated some form of Medicaid reimbursement for doula care as of August. Iowa is not currently on the list.

“It would be nice if Medicaid covered this routinely across the state,” Wickersham said. “But at least we know Johnson County is taking a big step and that’s really a positive thing.”

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Pettit-Majewski said the county currently has the budget to cover training and preparation for prospective doulas, as well as 40 births.

“When you’re having a baby, they don’t really come on your schedule,” Pettit-Majewski said. “We want to set these folks up for success by giving them resources so that they can help the women who are at the highest risk in our community.”

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About the Contributors
Will Bower, News Reporter
Will Bower is a freshman student at the University of Iowa. Hailing from the suburbs of Des Moines, Will has a double major in Journalism and History. Before arriving in Iowa City, Will worked on his high school publication and was active in the theatrical arts. At the Daily Iowan, Will works as a news reporter and looks forward to gaining experience in a professional newsroom.
Carly Schrum, Photojournalist
Carly is a freshman majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and potentially majoring in sustainability. She works at the Daily Iowan as a photojournalist.