May 15, 2019

Steward Healthy Beginnings Program Now Offers Free Doula Care for Steward Health Choice Members

Mothers-to-be and new moms in Norwood region now have extra support

Steward Health Choice, the largest Medicaid Accountable Care Organization in Massachusetts with more than 120,000 covered lives, has launched an innovative pilot program providing doula care to its members, free-of-charge across the state. The pilot program is a component of Steward’s Healthy Beginnings Program, which provides care coordination, free childbirth education classes, and other benefits to its pregnant and postpartum members. 

A doula is a trained, non-clinical professional who provides educational, emotional, and physical support to parents and their families throughout pregnancy, birth, and the early postpartum period. “The role of the doula does not replace that of the obstetrician, midwife, or nurse; rather, the doula works collaboratively with the obstetric care team to support the patient and family,” states Dr. Isabel Morais, Chair of Obstetrics & Gynecology, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center and Director of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Steward Medical Group. 

Research indicates that patients who have a doula are more likely to report a positive birth experience and breastfeed their babies. They are simultaneously less likely to be induced, use an epidural, or deliver by cesarean. Some studies have also demonstrated that doulas reduce the length of labor, as well as the likelihood that a newborn will be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and the chances that the new parent will experience postpartum depression. 

“Doula care for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is a wise investment in the health and well-being of parents and their newborns,” said Deb Yolin, Vice President of Clinical Programs, Steward Health Care Network. “There is a measurable, positive impact in both the short- and long-term, and Steward Health Choice is excited to make this service available to our members.”

Norwood Hospital’s team of obstetricians and gynecologists welcome the addition of the doulas to enhance the opportunities for best outcomes for mother and baby, said Dr. Nakhle Tarazi, chief of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Norwood Hospital. “Incorporating this additional layer of care and support for expectant and new mothers is an important dimension of the complete care we can provide to our patients and their families who are enrolled in Steward Health Choice,” said Dr. Tarazi. “It puts the concept of ‘It takes a village’ into action and is an exciting development in our extension of care in the community.”

Steward Health Choice is prepared to provide free doula care to every member giving birth at Norwood Hospital through Steward’s partnership with Accompany Doula Care, a Boston-based multi-lingual, multi-cultural collective of doulas. Members receive continuous labor support as well as prenatal and postpartum home visits from a doula who is matched to meet their individual needs. The doulas work collaboratively within the members’ care team, which includes a care coordinator, and in some cases, a social worker to address social determinants of health such as housing, finances, transportation, and legal assistance. 

Steward’s Healthy Beginnings Program is committed to providing comprehensive support to its pregnant and postpartum members. “Doulas provide a unique and valuable service to childbearing families. The doula program is designed to expand upon our existing programs to build trust, bridge language and cultural gaps, and ultimately improve outcomes and the experience for birthing families,” said Sarah Hodin, Program Manager, Women’s and Family Health Services, Steward Health Care Network. The doula program launched in April 2019. 

About Steward Health Care
Steward Health Care is the largest private, tax-paying physician-led health care network in the United States. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Steward operates 37 hospitals in the United States and the country of Malta that regularly receive top awards for quality and safety. The company employs approximately 42,000 health care professionals. The Steward network includes multiple urgent care centers and skilled nursing facilities, substantial behavioral health services, over 7,900 beds under management, and approximately 2.2 million full risk covered lives through the company's managed care and health insurance services.

The Steward Health Care Network includes 5,000 physicians across 800 communities who help to provide more than 12 million patient encounters per year. Steward Medical Group, the company's employed physician group, provides more than six million patient encounters per year. The Steward Hospital Group operates hospitals in Malta and nine states across the U.S., including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah.