Mayor Bowser is continuing to put the issue of Black maternal health front and center, with initiatives like the Annual National Maternal and Infant Health Summit. (Credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin); (Sonography photo courtesy of Unsplash / Amr Taha); (Pregnant photo courtesy of Unsplash / Omurden Cengiz)

By April Quevedo,
Special to the AFRO

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser hosted the sixth Annual National Maternal and Infant Health Summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C. on Sept. 19. The event featured panel discussions, community spaces, breakout sessions and a virtual resource expo with a focus on working women.

“No matter how your family comes together, or how young or old your children are, it takes a village to keep families healthy, happy and safe,” said Mayor Bowser. “Building communities that support families requires us to think broadly – from housing to healthcare and everything in between. We have a lot of fantastic programs that support families in D.C. and we want to make sure people know about them.”

Mothers and healthcare professionals from around the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area were in attendance, many with their children in tow. 

One attendee, Alease Young, 67, a retired registered nurse at George Washington University Hospital has attended every summit since its debut in 2017. She cites the valuable information being shared with the public by the Mayor’s Office on Women’s Policy and Initiatives (MOWPI) as her reason for returning each year. 

“They didn’t know that they could get whatever they needed from the District [for] free,” said Young, who describes herself as an informant, often returning to work with new information to inform patients and colleagues. “I’m just glad that the young moms are being helped, the older moms are being helped and the middle-aged moms are being helped.”

Resources offered included information for government initiatives such as the Help Me Grow Program via Mayor Bowser’s 1-800-MOM-BABY hotline. The program provides a free, confidential, centralized telephone access point that links every family in D.C. to a care coordinator that will answer questions and concerns about their pregnancy or child’s development, connect them with services in their community, and follow-up to ensure a connection is made according to the mayor’s office. 

Booths could be found across the conference center hosting healthcare providers, child welfare options, early childhood education, birthing centers and hospitals, legal assistance and more. 

Sareea Freeman, 31, a project coordinator with Events DC, and Frances Funez Burke, 35, an entrepreneur, are both first-time mothers who attended the summit for the first time this year. The women are seeking a way to learn more about what resources are available to them and to connect with other mothers in the area.

“I think there was a lot [of information] from victims of domestic violence all the way to Medicaid,” Freeman said. As a new mother, she made the effort to stop by nearly every booth to become as knowledgeable as possible. 

Both mothers plan on attending the summit again next year.

“I want to bring people that I know [next year]. I want to share with friends, family, everybody,” said Funez Burke. “It’s very exciting, and it’s very empowering, I feel.”

April Quevedo is an AFRO Intern from the University of Maryland, College Park.