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Photo: Jeanine Valrie Logan, CNM, MSN, MPH, CLC
Founder, Chicago South Side Birth Center
VNA Foundation continued its commitment to improving the health of women in metro Chicago by awarding early start-up funding at its December 2021 quarterly meeting to the Chicago South Side Birth Center (CSSBC). Approved by the VNA Board of Directors as Special Initiative funding, which represents the foundation’s highest level of philosophical and financial commitment, the $97,000 grant will support the hiring of a part-time Development Coordinator who will continue to build the organizational structure of the CSSBC, and pursue the requirements needed to open a freestanding birth center to serve the southern communities of Chicago.
CSSBC is a new independent, Black midwife-led, not-for-profit agency working to establish a freestanding birth center on the south side of Chicago that will offer low-risk options for birth and reproductive health care. The birth center, anticipated to open in 2023, will provide an answer to the lack of care options currently available on the south side, as well as a solution to the disparate maternal and child health rates among Black women and children.
In Illinois, Chicago has the highest rate of pregnancy-related severe morbidity (120.8 per 10,000 deliveries for non-Hispanic Black women, versus 46.9 for white women, and 60.0 per Hispanic women) and mortality. Furthermore, Chicago’s Non-Hispanic Black women are approximately six times more likely to die within one year of pregnancy than white women. And the infant mortality rate in Chicago shows that Black babies die at more than three times the rate of white babies and double the rate of Latinx babies.
Recent funding from VNA Foundation, joined by our partners at the Irving Harris Foundation, the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois will support the hiring of a new dedicated employee to assist with the planning, creation, and launch of the birth center. To date, this work has been led by Jeanine Valrie Logan, a nurse midwife with a vision for a community-run birth center, who has been juggling a full time job and motherhood while volunteering her time to the birth center.
“Receiving these awards is a testament to the need, and an affirmation to the vision, of a birth center that serves families and communities on the south side. It is our mission to provide concordant, culturally-centered, evidence-based midwifery care alongside families and within the community to improve outcomes, promote wellness, and increase abundance in whole health. As a midwife, my birth work and advocacy strive to create safe healing spaces that improve outcomes for birthing people who are particularly vulnerable to racialized obstetric harm and trauma. I see the Chicago South Side Birth Center as being that space.” –Jeanine Valrie Logan, Midwife
Executive Director Robert DiLeonardi shares, “VNA has always been a strong advocate for maternal-child services. We fund prenatal home-visits and family support programming, doula services and breastfeeding programs, and in recent years expanded our grantmaking to focus on postpartum care. And this commitment goes all the way back to our roots as The Visiting Nurse Association of Chicago (VNA-C). For over 100 years after its founding in 1890, VNA-C maintained programs that sent visiting nurses into homes to assist pregnant mothers. We are proud to honor that legacy through this innovative and impactful new program, and are grateful for the Chicago South Side Birth Center’s commitment to reducing disparities and inequities in maternal and infant outcomes in our city.”
Update (March 2022): The Chicago South Side Birth Center, and Midwife and Founder Jeanine Valrie Logan will be highlighted in the new documentary, Deliver Us. Deliver Us will share the stories of Black midwives across the country who are opening birth centers to help address the undeniable reality that Black mothers in our country are dying during childbirth at staggering rates. Watch the trailer below, spread the word, and learn more at deliverusdoc.com.