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Erie County to pilot state doula program aimed at reducing childbirth complications

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National Public Radio

New York State's Health Department is launching a pilot program expanding Medicaid coverage to doula services in an effort to reduce childbirth complications for women and babies.

The pilot will launch in March in Erie County and parts of Brooklyn. This month, health officials will launch training and education efforts.

"New York State's strong leadership and focus on health equity reinforces their commitment to work towards the elimination of racial disparities and tackle the social determinants that impact maternal health," said LuAnn Brown, CEO of the Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network.

Doulas are non-medical birth coaches who assist women before, during and after childbirth. They have been shown to increase positive health outcomes related to childbirth. Medicaid will begin accepting applications Dec. 1.

Credit Erie County

Health insurance plans participating in the pilot include Fidelis Care New York, HealthNow New York, Independent Health’s MediSource, United Healthcare Community Plan, Wellcare of New York and YourCare Health Plan.

Erie County and Brooklyn were chosen for the pilot program because they have the state's highest number of Medicaid births and maternal and infant mortality rates.

The doula project is part of the state's initiative to reduce maternal mortality and reduce racial disparities in childbirth outcomes.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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