The Black Maternal Health Fair Addresses Disparities

By: Taja Johnson, Follow South Jersey Intern

The Black Maternal Health Fair panelists include from left to right: Cristal Marte, Shalisha C., Kianna Ackerman, Cherelle Cook, Yajahira M. Photo credit: Taja Johnson.

CAMDEN. N.J. – Maternal health disparities among Black women continue to be a critical concern, with systemic issues affecting the quality of care they receive during pregnancy and childbirth. Kianna Ackerman, a prevention consultant at The Center for Family Services in Camden County, emerges as a proactive response to these challenges, aiming to shed light on healthcare issues, provide resources, and advocate for lasting change.

Doula, Daymonay Finley, stressed the positive impact of having a doula. Photo credit: Taja Johnson.

The Black Maternal Health Fair, organized by Kianna Ackerman, took place on November 4, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Rutgers University, Camden. This event aimed to shed light on the challenges faced by Black women and brown women during pregnancy and childbirth, particularly the lack of proper care and resources, as well as the impact of postpartum depression.

Ackerman shared the inspiration behind the fair, rooted in her personal experiences as a black mother. “The inspiration behind the Black Maternal Health Fair came from having to do an advocacy project in my graduate studies at West Chester University,” Ackerman said. “I thought about what I cared about the most and what would drive me to finish a big semester project like this. Being a black mother myself, I thought this idea was perfect.” Her goal was to create awareness and provide valuable resources to address the critical issues in maternal health within the African American community.

Ackerman mentioned, “Some of the panelists will cover topics like the types of therapy that can be provided during and after pregnancy.”

The panel discussion, which was a pivotal component of the event, featured a diverse panel of women, including mothers, doulas, and experts in nighttime experiences. Discussions covered topics such as therapeutic services during and after pregnancy, holistic approaches to therapy, the importance of nighttime nursing, and the benefits of having a doula. 

These insights aimed to empower women with knowledge and support to navigate the challenges of motherhood. Maternal health disparities were a central focus at the Black Maternal Health Fair. It featured Ackerman sharing her personal experience with postpartum depression emphasizing the importance of therapy, while Christal Marte highlighted the importance of nighttime nursing. “If you’re having issues, get support,” Marte stated. Marte also offered support to mothers facing childbearing challenges or breastfeeding difficulties. 

Sororities Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Gamma Nu Zeta Chapter participated in the event. Photo credit: Taja Johnson.

Amongst the panelists, Cherelle Crook shared her experiences about her second childbirth and how it ended with an emergency C-section, she emphasized on the importance of women having support along the way. Doula, Daymonay Finley, stressed the positive impact of having a doula, citing reduced C-section rates and lower dependence on pain medication during labor for black and brown women. 

“After receiving help from a doula, 39% of these women are less likely to have a C-section,” Finley stated. 

Looking ahead, Ackerman expressed her commitment to continuing advocacy for Black maternal health and wellness. 

“I plan to continue to advocate for Black Maternal health and wellness in the community by hopefully making this a yearly event. While also providing workshops and seminars on the topic throughout the year,” stated Ackerman. 

By fostering awareness through creativity, community engagement, and exploration within marginalized communities, Ackerman aims to be a supportive figure for every mother in need during their pregnancy and childbirth experiences.

The Black Maternal Health Fair not only raised awareness about the challenges faced by black women but also provided valuable resources and a supportive community. Ackerman and her team at the Center for Family Services demonstrated a commitment to addressing these issues and fostering a healthier, more informed maternal healthcare landscape.

The event concluded with raffles and giveaways, adding a heartwarming touch to a day focused on education, support, and creating a stronger, more informed community. To address maternal health disparities, the fair provided resources through visual presentations, personal handouts, and QR code cards linking crucial applications and local supports. Attendees gained information on NJ Family Care, WIC offices, therapeutic services, finding a nighttime nurse, and associated costs.

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