Circles of Sisters

Exploring the feasibility of implementing a doula program to support Beloit-area teen mothers and their children

Full Project Name:Circles of Sisters: Enhancing family development with doula care for Beloit teen mothers & their childrenPrimary Community Organization:Beloit CollegePrimary Academic Partner:Emmanuel Ngui, DrPH, PediatricsAward Amount:44,062
Award Date
July2008
Project Duration:12 months

Project Description Narrative:


Teenage pregnancy has been associated with a number of adverse birth outcomes, such as preterm delivery, low birth weight, and neonatal morbidity. While there has been as steady decline in teen pregnancy rates (births to women less than 20 years of age) in Wisconsin over the past decade, rates for black teens remain significantly higher than other groups. In Rock County, located in south-central Wisconsin, the teen birth rate in 2006 was 40 per 1,000 females in the age group, with 11% the 506 teen births documented a low birth weight. The rate of premature birth was significantly higher among minority teens. While 15% of the 506 teen births were preterm, 20% of those were to black teens, 18% were to Hispanic teens, and 12% were to white teens.

This racial disparity continues in Wisconsin's infant mortality rates, with black infants in Wisconsin 3.5 times more likely than white infants to die within their first year. In Rock County, data indicate that black infants are 3.7 times more likely than white infants to die within their first year.

With black infants more likely than white infants to be born premature and die in their first year of life, pairing doulas with black teen mothers may pose one opportunity to reach out and address this health disparity. Through this award, project partners will conduct a needs assessment to explore the feasibility of implementing a doula program for teen mothers in Beloit, in Rock County, in order to address health disparities and improve maternal and child health.

Community partners:
Community Action--HUB Connections, Family Services of Southern Wisconsin & Northern Illinois, Inc., Beloit Area Community Health Center

Additional MCW academic partner:
Alicia Cortright, MPH, Pediatrics

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Established a project Task Force of invested stakeholders and advisors

• Conducted a needs assessment that included a survey of community members and health care providers regarding services and needs as well as focus groups of teen mothers

• Documented a desire for implementation of a community-based doula program for teen mothers and other underserved women in Beloit

&bull: Conducted site visits and workshops with other communitiy-based doula programs to develop a clear vision for a local program, ultimately developing a draft implementation plan for a community-based doula program in Beloit

• Spurred productive community conversations about sexual education in schools as well as supportive policies in local hospital systems (i.e. how many individuals an accompany women in labor), and supported the planning and implementation of a health fair focused on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections

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