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Partnering with Community Doulas to Improve

Maternal and Infant Health Equity in California

Project Summary

Background: Doulas are trained professionals who provide educational, physical, and spiritual support before, during, and after childbirth. Doula support is associated with improved maternal and infant outcomes. Although limited, research on the benefits of doula care has led to identification of doula care as a strategy to reduce racial/ethnic disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. Specifically, research on the impact of community doulas is limited; community doulas provide comprehensive services at low or no cost to underserved communities, are often members of the communities they serve, and share cultures and languages with their clients. Stakeholder engagement, particularly from women of color and community doulas whose voices have largely been absent from research and policy conversations, is vital for future patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) on the impact of community doula care.


Proposed Solution to the Problem: The project team will create a collaborative of stakeholders in California that will facilitate equitable, ethical, and PCOR on community doula care. This approach will be successful because it creates the infrastructure for the development of a shared research agenda that centers women of color and community doulas. California is ideal for this work, given ongoing pilots evaluating the impact of community doula care in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and interest from policy makers to advance Medicaid coverage for doula care.


Objectives: The project’s objective is to establish a collaborative of California stakeholders to develop a research agenda for community doula care as an intervention to advance maternal and infant health equity. The long-term objective is to inform patient-centered, equity-focused, community-informed research on the impact of community doula care.


Leadership Team


Dr. Cassondra Marshall, Principal Investigator

Assistant Professor | Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Program

University of California, Berkeley

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Marna Armstead

Executive Director

SisterWeb San Francisco Community Doula Network

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Starr Britt

Director of Sustainability

Roots of Labor Birth Collective

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Dr. Anu Manchikanti Gomez

Associate Professor | School of Social Welfare

Director | SHARE Program

University of California, Berkeley

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Dr. Monica McLemore

Associate Professor | Department of Family Health Care Nursing

Executive Director | ACTIONS

University of California, San Francisco

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Dr. Sayida Peprah

Program Co-Director

Frontline Doulas

Leadership Team
Steering Committee Members

Steering Committee Members

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Natalie Berbick

PEI Coordinator, Contra Costa County

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Amy Chen

Senior Attorney, National Health Law Program

Camera Flash Lighting Equipment
Coming Soon

Marlena Cohen

Steering Committee Member

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Ajira Darch

Steering Committee Member

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Shantay Davies-Balch

Founder, Black Wellness and Prosperity Center

Camera Flash Lighting Equipment
Coming Soon

Kimberley Durdin

Student Midwife, Kindred Space LA

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Pratima Gupta

OB/GYN and Assistant Professor

University of California, San Diego

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Mashariki Kudumu

Maternal and Child Health Director, March of Dimes

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Pooja Mittal

Medical Director, California Health and Wellness


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Curley Palmer

PEI Coordinator, Riverside County

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Ayori Selassie

Steering Committee Member

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Truc Tang

Clinical Quality Program Director, California Medicaid Anthem

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Kimeshia Thomas

OB/GYN, University of Southern California

Project Learnings

Project learnings

What is a community doula?

Throughout this project, stakeholders recognized a need to increase awareness about community doula care. Steering Committee members drew from their own experiences to answer a common question: “What is a community doula?” Read their description.

With the Steering Committee’s input, artist and visual scribe Ashanti Gardner created an illustration meant to educate the public about community doula care. If you would like to share the illustration below on social media, click here to save the image to your device.


Research prioritization

One of the project’s objectives was to establish a collaborative of California stakeholders to develop a research agenda for community doula care. The Research Prioritization by Affected Communities (RPAC) protocol is meant to facilitate patient and public involvement in research agenda setting. The project team adapted the RPAC protocol to guide a research prioritization process. Over several interactive sessions, the project Steering Committee generated more than 170 questions about community doula care that can be answered through research. The goal of generating these questions was to establish a starting point for researchers, doulas, and clients to develop thoughtful studies that may fill important gaps in the literature. Click here to read the Steering Committee’s 21 priority questions. 

Final Report

Findings from the Community Doula Research Project

This report includes background information about the project purpose and Steering Committee and findings from a needs assessment that informed the research prioritization process. For the needs assessment, the project team interviewed 29 stakeholders — including doulas, former doula clients, public health professionals, clinicians, policymakers, and researchers — to identify their needs and values regarding research on community doula care. Click here to read the report.

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