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NYC Program Helping Expectant Mothers Gets $2M to Expand Reach

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   May 25, 2023

The grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust will help NYC Health + Hospitals' innovative HoPE program expand its reach to expectant mothers who are experiencing homelessness or imprisoned.

A program launched last year in New York City to address high maternal mortality rates among minorities is getting a $2 million cash infusion to expand its reach to homeless and incarcerated mothers-to-be.

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has announced a $2 million, three-year grant to the Arnold Institute for Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to expand the HoPE (Helping Promote Birth Equity through Community-Based Doula Care) Program, which was launched in 2022 at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and Queens.

The funding will help the program expand doula care services to expectant mothers who are homeless or facing housing insecurity, as well as those in prison.

“Right now, New Yorkers experiencing homelessness or incarceration are twice as likely as their housed peers to experience negative birth outcomes,” Tracy Perrizo, the program officer for the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s New York City Program, said in a press release. “At Helmsley, we look for solutions that reduce barriers to care for those with complex needs and limited access to quality services. Expanding doula services for those who are sheltered or incarcerated can improve birth experiences. With continued support from doulas who understand their challenges and needs, we are optimistic that this program can enhance participants’ overall engagement with healthcare and promote long-term well-being for themselves and their children.”

The program is one of hundreds across the country that aim to improve access to care for pregnant women, as well as those who have recently given birth and the children. Through community-based programs as well as telehealth and digital health channels, health systems are offering services and access to resources to those who either can't or won’t seek the care they need.

The HoPE program was launched in a partnership between Elmhurst and Queens hospitals and two doula organizations, Ancient Song Doula Services and the Caribbean Women's Health Association, and is part of a larger program launched in 2018 known as the New York City Partnership.

“With the support from Helmsley, we can better assist our community members who have historically faced disproportionately high adverse childhood experiences, chronic health challenges, limited support during the critical perinatal period, and poor maternal and child health outcomes," Sheela Maru, MD, MPH, an attending physician at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and assistant professor of global health and obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine, said in the press release. "Community-based doula care offers us a way to change this trajectory.” 

“With funding from Helmsley, the HoPE program will give our patients the opportunity to work with doulas who can support them both in jail and after they return to the community," added Rebecca Giusti, MD, Medical Director of NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services' Complex Care and Special Populations division. "I expect that the relationships they build will improve birth experiences and outcomes and further strengthen continuity of care between CHS and H+H hospitals.”

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


NYC Health + Hospitals launched the HoPE program in 2022 with two local doula organizations to provide much-needed healthcare services to pregnant women in Queens.

The program is one of many around the country aimed at tackling the nation's high maternal mortality rate by improving access to care and resources for mothers-to-be, as well as new new mothers and their babies, through a variety of channels, including community-based care, telehealth and digital health.

The $2 million grant will enable the HoPE program to reach out to two high-risk populations: Pregnant women experiencing housing anxiety or homelessness and those who are incarcerated.

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