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Conference Brings Together Midwives Of Color

PORTLAND, OR - The International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) has announced that Grammy® Award Winner and holistic healer, Erykah Badu, will be the keynote speaker at its 7th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference, to be held October 7-10 in Long Beach, California. An advocate of natural childbirth, healthy birth outcomes and breastfeeding for robust infant development, Ms. Badu will address the conference on Saturday evening, October 9th.

Shafia Monroe, president and founder of ICTC, said, "We are honored that Ms. Badu will be at our international conference to speak to the midwives and health practitioners about her experiences with home birth. Ms. Badu is an inspiration to many young families who are considering having natural birth and breastfeeding to promote the health and well-being of their children. ICTC is excited about her commitment to the cause of healthy babies and families in the Black community and other communities of color, and her willingness to share her stories and inspire our conference attendees."

Erykah Badu's three children, son Seven Sirius (b. 1997) and daughters Puma (b. 2004) and Mars Merkaba (b. 2009), were all born at home with a practicing midwife, and the two older children are home-schooled. Outside of her prolific musical career and her acting in such films as The Cider House Rules and House of D, Ms. Badu founded her non-profit group, B.L.I.N.D. (Beautiful Love Incorporated Non-Profit Development) in 2003, which is geared toward creating social change through economic, artistic, and cultural development. Self-described as a "mother first," Badu is a touring artist, teacher, community activist, vegan, recycler, and a conscious spirit.

ICTC's national conference, "Weaving the Cultural Traditions of Midwifery," will bring together midwives, doulas, public health professionals, childbirth educators, nurses, physicians, holistic practitioners, social workers and many others to focus on improving birth outcomes for African American and other women of color. At the conference, to be held at the Hilton Long Beach Hotel and Executive Meeting Center in Long Beach, California, participants will convene to improve birth outcomes, increase breastfeeding rates, and mentor persons aspiring to become midwives by creating opportunities for diverse communities to learn evidence-based infant mortality reduction strategies, cultural specific practices through conferences, trainings and outreach.

"Sadly, in 2008 over 28,000 American babies died before their first birthday," said Monroe. "Factors that contribute to the higher rates of African American infant mortality include premature births, lowbirth weight, low breastfeeding rates, and racial and other inequities that induce stress." The infant mortality gap between black and white infants is still exceedingly wide: in 2008 the rate was more than double among non-Hispanic Black Americans, 13.63 infant deaths per 1,000, compared to 5.76 per 1,000 infant deaths among non-Hispanic White Americans. The infant mortality rate, which is the rate at which babies die before their first birthday, is a social indicator of how well a nation is doing; unfortunately the U.S. ranked 30th among industrialized countries in its infant mortality rate. In 2010, the U.S. rate was similar to countries such as Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia, Belarus and the Cayman Islands ( Countries with infant mortality rates lower than the U.S. include Cuba, Taiwan, Portugal, and South Korea.

The conference will address culturally specific care to prevent the premature deaths of babies and their mothers, and to increase the number of midwives of color to provide care to ethnically diverse populations. Anne Richter, CNM, MPH, and co-chair of the Safe Mother Initiative, observed that, "On a national level, the number of minority nurses in the profession is very low." She points to an American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) survey which found that only 3.8% of the nurse-midwife population is African American, 1.9% is Hispanic, 1% is Asian and 0.4% is Native American.

Conference topics will include: Midwives Working Across Cultures; Doulas and Midwives: A Comprehensive Team; Cultural Competency for Better Birth Outcomes; Perinatal Mood Disorders; Alternative Families Birthing; Breastfeeding: A Social Justice Issue; Natural Births and Sustainability; Ending the Epidemic of Babies' Mamas; Ten Ways a Father Can Save His Baby; Reducing Infant Mortality; Community Doula Models; and Legislation and Health Policy and Looking Forward: The Implications of Universal Health Care, among many others, including a tract for teens.

Monroe said, "If we are to reduce the preventable deaths of our nation's babies, then ethnically-specific approaches will be needed to further reduce infant mortality rates and achieve our national goal to eliminate ethnic disparities in perinatal outcomes. To reduce infant mortality, the use of midwives is essential because the care given by a midwife takes into consideration the individual woman's cultural and social needs in her own environment."

The International Center for Traditional Childbearing is an infant mortality prevention, breastfeeding promotion and midwife training non-profit organization. The ICTC mission is to increase the number of midwives, doulas, and healers of color; and to empower families in order to reduce maternal and infant mortality. Established in 1991 and headquartered in Portland, Oregon, ICTC has members and chapters around the globe to improve health outcomes.


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