In its first phase, taskforce members will help lay the foundation to the Borough President’s maternal health agenda. Taskforce fulfills Borough President Reynoso’s commitment to reduce disparities of maternal mortality and morbidity found between birthing people of color and their white counterparts
BROOKLYN, NY (April 11, 2022) Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso today announced the appointment of the initial members to his Maternal Health Taskforce. Co-chaired by NYC Health + Hospitals Chief Women’s Health Service Officer Dr. Wendy Wilcox and NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull Director of Midwifery Services Helena Grant, additional members of the taskforce include former NYC Councilmember Hon. Una S. T. Clarke, Assistant Commissioner of Brooklyn Neighborhood Health at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Dr. Zahirah McNatt, Executive Director at Brooklyn Perinatal Network, Inc. Ngozi Moses, and mental health advocate Christina Sparrock.
In its first phase, Borough President Reynoso’s taskforce will help lay the foundation for strategizing around his maternal health agenda and expanding the taskforce. The Maternal Health Taskforce fulfills Borough President Reynoso’s commitment to reduce disparities of maternal mortality and morbidity found between birthing people of color and their white counterparts. Currently, Black birthing people in New York City are 9.4 times more likely to die due to childbirth complications than their white counterparts.
“The initial members of our Maternal Health Taskforce bring decades of expertise in maternal healthcare, wraparound services, community engagement, advocacy, and other spaces that are needed to holistically approach the crisis of maternal mortality disparities seen in our communities,” said Brooklyn Borough President Reynoso. “I look forward to working with these experts and literally saving lives.”
In his new position, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso intends to allocate a majority of his FY23 Capital Funding to the three Brooklyn public hospitals to upgrade birthing facilities at each, including but not limited to utilizing state-of-the-art technology to improve patient safety, expanding birthing options, providing new opportunities for patient education, improving continuity of care, and prioritizing privacy and infection control. Borough President Reynoso also looks forward to supporting outpatient services, such as social services and community care models, that address underlying issues facing people of color, increasing health insurance access for all birthing people, and more.
“Every maternal death is a tragedy, not only for the grieving family and community left behind, but for society at large,” said Dr. Wilcox. “Maternal mortality is a key indicator of the health of a society, and is a reflection of the functioning of the overall health system in the United States. I commend Brooklyn Borough President Reynoso for shining a spotlight on this tragic issue and I am honored to be chosen as the co-chair of this taskforce. I look forward to working with the Borough President and other stakeholders in Brooklyn to solve this complex and difficult problem.
“I am humbled to accept the appointment as Co-Chair of Borough President Antonio Reynoso’s maternal mortality and morbidity taskforce. I am excited to work with someone so on fire for the holistic health of families,” said Grant. “I look forward to helping co-create new energy that gets activated around what we can do to empower birthing people, families, and communities to live their best lives through increased education, care, understanding, and resources. The Brooklyn Borough President shares my long-held desire to ensure that birth is safe, satisfying, and sacred. Collaborative midwifery care has the power to reconcile the abysmal statistics in Brooklyn as it has in other industrialized nations because it utilizes a relationship-based, shared-decision-making philosophy that addresses issues of reproductive justice, birth equity, health disparities, maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, and primary care. I have absolutely no doubt that in this season, under his leadership, shifts will happen that change the trajectory of the birthing experiences and outcomes in the borough of Brooklyn, making it the sought-out place to receive care and give birth in our city.”
“I was pleased to serve as the co-chair of the Brooklyn Borough President’s Transition Team and look forward to serving on this taskforce. In my tenure in City Council, I have advocated on many health issues, including maternal health and will continue to advocate for funding and collaboration between providers, hospitals and community-based organizations to improve maternal health outcomes,” said Hon. Clarke.
“I am honored to be serving on the Taskforce at such a key moment in public health history, where we are addressing injustices and inequities, and crafting sustainable solutions that center people who have been pushed to the margins,” said Dr. McNatt.
“I am extremely excited to support our new Brooklyn Borough President in his focus on comprehensive maternal health care; particularly, to tackle the crisis of Black and Brown women experiencing severe morbidity and mortality,” said Moses. “Brooklyn Perinatal Network, Inc. supports a holistic approach to care offered by community-based organizations, such as social health wrap-around service and community care models, that address underlying social determinants of health. I’m sure this taskforce will encourage a holistic care delivery environment that values alignment of outpatient resources, connection to care, and community care models that address underlying determinants that influence individual health outcomes and mitigates risks.”
“I am honored to be appointed by Brooklyn Borough President Reynoso to his maternal health taskforce. Health care is a human right, and race should never be a factor in how health care is delivered. Especially during the perinatal period, it’s imperative that women of color receive culturally humble, trauma-informed, and person-centered care as this will strengthen and maintain their emotional wellness,” said Sparrock.
Taskforce members were selected due to their involvement in the Borough President’s transition team who have helped outline his maternal health priorities. Others were selected due to their work leading system transformations around care models in maternal health.
About Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso’s Maternal Health Taskforce Members:
Wendy Wilcox, MD, MPH, MBA, FACOG is the Chief Women’s Health Service Officer at NYC Health + Hospitals, where is responsible for the strategic development for the women’s health service line, enhancing the performance of clinical teams, and implementing quality and safety initiatives across the City’s public health system. Most recently, Dr. Wilcox was responsible for the design and implementation of the NYC-funded NYC Health + Hospitals maternal mortality and morbidity reduction initiative, which established the Maternal Medical Home that provides enhanced wrap around services for pregnant persons at risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Helena Grant, MS, CNM, LM, CICP has been a practicing midwife in Brooklyn for 25 years. She is currently the Director of Midwifery Services at NYC Health and Hospitals/Woodhull and Co-Chair of the NYC public health system’s midwifery counsel. She is also immediate past Co-Chair of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Committee. She is currently the Acting President of New York State Midwives, Vice-Chair of the Black Caucus for the American College of Nurse-Midwives and Co-Chair of Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso’s taskforce to end Maternal Mortality and Morbidity.
Honorable Una S. T. Clarke is a former Councilmember for Brooklyn’s 40th District. During her 10 years tenure she sponsored more than 300 pieces of legislation on a wide range of issues including child welfare, education, health and mental health issues, economic development, public safety, and transportation. Her portfolio in the Council included committees on Aging, Youth Services, Economic Development, Health and Mental Health, and General Welfare.
Zahirah McNatt, DrPH, MHSA is the Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of Brooklyn Neighborhood Health at NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Dr. McNatt oversees and manages the successful development, implementation, and evaluation of community-level and systems-level strategies in North and Central Brooklyn that aim to address health inequities. She also leads the Bureau’s programming, planning, and recovery work to address racial and other social inequities resulting in premature mortality, including for neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 due to histories of systemic and structural inequities driven by racism and oppression. Dr. McNatt’s expertise lies at the intersection of global public health, humanitarian systems, and human rights. She has more than 15 years of experience in the Americas, the Middle East, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. Her work has spanned academic, non-profit and government sectors.
Ngozi N. Moses, MSc is the founding Executive Director of Brooklyn Perinatal Network, Inc. (BPN), an organization composed from a community taskforce to address high infant mortality. As a network of several community organizations, BPN helps provide medical care, behavioral health care, and supportive services. Her leadership is variously acknowledged for development, facilitation, and management of community-based organization initiatives addressing policy and program resources for maternal and child health. Moses also currently leads efforts to introduce the evidence-based Pathways Community HUB program model, helping community-based organizations to coordinate their work and address social determinants of health more effectively with a financially sustainable strategy.
Christina Sparrock is a certified public accountant and mental health advocate. As a person who lives with a mental health condition, she is a staunch supporter of the emotional and social well-being of those living with mental health concerns. Ms. Sparrock coordinated the first ever NYC Mayoral Candidate Mental Health Town Hall, currently serves on Correct Crisis Intervention Today (CCIT-NYC), and designed a Person-Centered Intervention Training Mental Health Response pilot model in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, and testifies to ensure that people with lived experience are always “at the table”.