Despite being one of the world’s wealthiest cities, New York City has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the United States. For Black women, the outcomes are even worse. Black mothers are 9.4 times more likely to die due to childbirth complications than white mothers, and Central Brooklyn is the epicenter of the maternal health crisis in New York City. Brooklynites dreaming of growing their families face maternity care systems needing long-term and large-scale structural change. 

Brooklyn Borough President (BP) Antonio Reynoso is fighting against these unacceptably dire and persistent maternal health outcomes for Black women in Brooklyn, and claimed during his campaign run for BP that he aimed to make Brooklyn the “safest place in the city to have a baby.” So far, he has made good on his word after announcing that he has committed his entire $45 million FY23 capital budget to maternal health care improvements. 

Antonio joins us in this week’s Your Health Unlocked Podcast episode alongside Helena Grant, the co-chair of his newly founded Maternal Health Taskforce, to discuss how these investments are forcing a paradigm shift towards a healthier, more sustainable maternal health model that saves lives. 

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How preparing for his wife’s pregnancy galvanized Antonio’s maternal health advocacy
  • The role of the Maternal Health Taskforce in reducing racial disparities
  • The impact of the decision to allocate the entirety of the fiscal year 2023 capital funding budget – a total of $45 million – to Brooklyn’s three public hospitals
  • More about the other maternal health projects Antonio’s office has been involved in
  • What Antonio’s vision is for the rest of his term in office

More about Antonio Reynoso: 

Antonio Reynoso was born and raised in the Los Sures section of Williamsburg to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic. He graduated from LeMoyne College with a bachelor's degree in political science. 

Antonio started his political career as a Community Organizer for NYC ACORN and, in 2009, became Councilmember Diana Reyna’s Chief of Staff.  

From 2013 to 2021, he served on the New York City Council, representing District 34. 

In 2021, Antonio Reynoso was elected borough president of Brooklyn, raking in more than 73 percent of the vote. He assumed office on January 1, 2022, and his current term ends on January 1, 2026. 

The Brooklyn Borough President made history before even setting foot in Borough Hall. He is the first Latino Brooklyn Borough President and Dominican Borough President citywide. He is also the youngest Borough President ever elected to a full term. 

In response to what the Borough President calls “one of the greatest inequities of our time,” he launched a historic maternal health agenda: 

  •  Maternal Health Taskforce: In April 2022, Borough President Antonio Reynoso formed his Maternal Health Taskforce of eight Black women OBGYNs, nurses, midwives, mental health advocates, nonprofit and other community leaders to guide efforts to improve pregnancy outcomes for Black and Brown people in Brooklyn. 
  •  $45M for Public Hospitals: Over the summer, history was made when he allocated the entirety of his FY2023 capital funding – a total of $45 million – to Brooklyn’s three public hospitals for maternal healthcare improvements. This marked the first time a Borough President had ever allocated an entire fiscal year’s capital funding to one cause and within one city organization.
  •  ‘Born in Brooklyn’ Baby Boxes: In November, a total of 500 postpartum families receiving care at select Brooklyn hospitals and clinics received “Born in Brooklyn” baby boxes with free baby supplies and postpartum resources for new parents through a $100,000 grant from the Borough President to Met Council.  
  •  ‘Healthy Pregnancy’ Public Education Campaign: A $250,000 multimedia public education campaign was launched, connecting Brooklynites with a resource guide for a healthy pregnancy informed by the Borough President’s Maternal Health Taskforce. The multicultural campaign included English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole informational ads in bus and train stations in crucial Brooklyn neighborhoods and across digital platforms to reach Black and Brown communities facing crisis-level maternal mortality rates.

More about Helena Grant: 

Helena A. Grant is the Co-Chair of the Borough President’s Maternal Health Taskforce, Senior Advisor of Midwifery Initiatives for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and President of New York State Midwives. Helena is also the immediate past Director of Midwifery Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull. As a Certified Nurse Midwife, she has cared for and empowered the lives of women and families for over 25 years, including Antonio Reynoso and his wife, and has helped to birth thousands of new souls into the world. 

Helena is an immediate past Co-Chair of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee. She is also the Co-Chair of the Brooklyn Borough President’s Maternal Health Taskforce to end maternal mortality and morbidity, and a member of the NYS Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Advisory Committee, Birth Equity Improvement Project, and Abortion Taskforce. Helena also served as a member of the NYS Covid-19 Maternity Taskforce. 

Helena received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing with a minor in Theology from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in Midwifery Education from the State University of New York at Downstate, and an Integrative Professional Coaching Certification from the Ford Institute. Helena is a Fellow of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, where she served on the Board Composition, and Truth and Reconciliation Task Forces. She is the Vice-Chair of the Black Caucus and is a member of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging and the Racism in Midwifery Education Committees. 

Helena Grant

Resources for Episode 025:

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The primary purpose of this podcast is to educate and entertain. All views expressed by the persons featured on the Your Health Unlocked podcast are their own and do not reflect the opinions of the NWHN or its affiliates. Information provided in this podcast does not constitute medical advice. Consult your own provider for any medical issues that you may be experiencing.

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