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Maternal Infant Health – Equity begins at Labor and Delivery

Nicole Fernandez and Zora Darcourt represented Wayside Recovery Center at the 2022 Black Maternal Health Conference in Washington, DC.

Nicole Fernandez is on a mission. For the past two years, Nicole has been the Project Manager responsible for coordinating and hosting Wayside Recovery Center’s online training series on Black Maternal Health disparities.

With support from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, this series focuses on fostering collaboration between patients, community, and health practitioners to deliver high-quality care to Black women, infants, and their families.

For women in communities of color, the disparity rates that exist between them and the white population, have heartbreaking beginnings even in the Labor and Delivery room.

In America, Black women are 3-4 times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women. The U.S. has the highest maternal and infant mortality rate among comparable countries.

Wayside Recovery Center understands that the maternal and infant mortality crisis cannot be adequately addressed without understanding and dismantling racism and bias in our medical and behavioral health systems.

Project ECHO reaches a wide audience

Nicole began this work during the COVID-19 pandemic not knowing how many people would be available during such a grueling time for professionals in the health community. But the topic garnered a great deal of interest and soon doctors, researchers, and other community members who supported these efforts began to collaborate with Wayside in this important work. In its first year Project ECHO has engaged a national audience reaching more than 1,000 community members, including 522 clinicians and over 93 hospitals, clinics and universities from around the country, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico.

Highlights of the Work:

The trainings have addressed the impact of the social determinants of health, implicit bias, and the need for more training at every level of health care. Wayside staff are now partnering with organizations who are addressing the needs of families with advocacy solutions, nutrition resources and breastfeeding supports.

In addition to the specific information in each training there were many important themes and insights that emerged through the series, including:
• Using a team approach that includes Obstetrician, Doula, Midwife, and family members
• Keeping a focus on cultural competency, humility and awareness of patients’ needs
• Open communication is of critical importance

The Future

Starting in December 2022, Wayside will be launching a new ECHO Series continuing its focus on the BIPOC community, with a goal to increase its reach locally, nationally, and internationally to bring high quality training and education that seeks to close the gaps in health and equity for women and birthing people.

On Wednesday, December 14, the ECHO Series continues with a presentation by Leslie Farrington, MD “Respect in Health Care: Human Right & Provider Obligation.” To register for this workshop and sign up for email invitations to future ECHO events, visit

Wayside Recovery Center’s mission is to break the cycle of addition and trauma for women, children, and families. We offer mental, physical, and behavioral healthcare for the entire family and we seek to empower families with the tools they need to achieve a better quality of life.