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Ebola Fighters Named Time Person of the Year

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This image provided by Time Magazine, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, announces the Ebola fighters as its Person of The Year for 2014. The title, according to the magazine, goes to an individual or group who has had the biggest impact on the news over the course of the previous year. The issue carries five covers, and here, shows Dr. Jerry Brown, the Liberian surgeon who turned his hospital's chapel into the country's first Ebola treatment center. (AP Photo/Time Magazine)

This image provided by Time Magazine, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, announces the Ebola fighters as its Person of The Year for 2014. (AP Photo/Time Magazine)

KILEY ARMSTRONG, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Doctors, nurses and others fighting Ebola through “tireless acts of courage and mercy” have been named Time’s 2014 Person of the Year, the magazine announced Wednesday.

The runners-up included Ferguson, Missouri, protesters; Russian President Vladimir Putin; Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani; and Jack Ma, the China-based founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Time’s editor, Nancy Gibbs, praised “the people in the field, the special forces of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Christian medical-relief workers of Samaritan’s Purse and many others from all over the world” who “fought side by side with local doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams.”

Gibbs noted that the disease has struck doctors and nurses.

“The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight,” she wrote. They were cited “for tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defenses, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving.”

Antoine Petibon, head of international programs for the French Red Cross, which has been active in Guinea’s anti-Ebola efforts, called it “great recognition for all these people who have been toiling in the shadows.”

“If it helps us wipe out this epidemic faster, all the better,” Petibon added.

The disease has taken its toll in myriad ways.

In September, a team trying to inform villagers about Ebola in the forests of southern Guinea was attacked by a mob. The bodies of eight people — two local administrators, two medical officers, a preacher and three journalists, were found stuffed in a latrine.

Less than a month after arriving in Guinea, Cuban Dr. Jorge Juan Guerra Rodriguez died of malaria.

Henry Gray, MSF operations coordinator for the Ebola response in Guinea and Liberia, said the spotlight should be on the patients and the thousands of people in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Mali “who are doing their best to deal with this horrendous outbreak.”

Gray, speaking by phone from Conakry, the Guinea capita, said, “We are happy for this recognition but will be even happier when the last Ebola treatment center is closed and the crisis is declared over.”

Birte Hald, head of emergency operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said “front-line fighters” deserve recognition.

“People like myself, we are working hard, but we are not at risk,” Hald said from Nairobi. “People doing the safe and dignified burials, the contact tracing and the transport of the sick, working in the treatment centers — these are the people who deserve our praise and respect.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama and his administration “could not be prouder of the brave men and women who have committed themselves to this effort in a foreign land. … But we must not forget that in order to bring this epidemic under control on the front lines, indeed the only way to prevent additional cases here in the United States, we need more of these medical professionals.”

Christos Stylianides, European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, agreed.

“We urgently need more health workers on the ground,” said Stylianides. “The crisis is not over, and will not be unless we scale up the numbers of medical staff, field hospitals, laboratories and humanitarian aid.”

___

Associated Press writers Michelle Faul in York, England; John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels; and Nedra Pickler in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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#NNPA BlackPress

Empire Star Taraji Henson Speaks on Suicide and Mental Health on Capitol Hill

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death, I just…I’m sorry. That one is tough for me. So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you’re supposed to feel safe in school,” Henson told the members of Congress and those in the audience in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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Award-winning actress and Empire star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community. (Photo: YouTube)
Award-winning actress and Empire star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community. (Photo: YouTube)

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

“I am here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this, because I also suffer from depression and anxiety. If you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way.”

Award-winning actress and ‘Empire’ star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community.

The Congressional Black Caucus launched a task force on mental health issues in April of this year. They have held hearings on mental health and the increasing number of suicides among black youth. The CBC Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health is chaired by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The members of the task force are Reps. Alma Adams (D-NC), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), Danny Davis (D-IL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Lewis (D-GA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

“I’m here to appeal to you because this is a national crisis,” Henson said. Henson founded The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018 to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness in the African American community with a specific emphasis on the suicide rate among Black youth.

“I really don’t know how to fix this problem, I just know that the suicide rate is rising,” she said. “I just know that ages of the children that are committing suicide are getting younger and younger,” the actress added.

“It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death, I just…I’m sorry. That one is tough for me. So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you’re supposed to feel safe in school,” Henson told the members of Congress and those in the audience in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Every year, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness, but a National Alliance on Mental Illness study discovered that black adults utilize mental health services at half the rate of white adults.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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Community

‘Mindful Beauty’ health program to launch in salons

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Kaiser Permanente has teamed with Charles Drew University to launch a new mental health program called Mindful Beauty. Depression impacts the lives of more than 12 million women in America annually, according to Mental Health America. African-American women, as stated by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, are at the highest risk for experiencing major depression.

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Young woman consoling her friend. Los Angeles, America. (Photo by: wavenewspapers.com)

By Sarah Jones-Smith

LOS ANGELES — Kaiser Permanente has teamed with Charles Drew University to launch a new mental health program called Mindful Beauty.

Depression impacts the lives of more than 12 million women in America annually, according to Mental Health America. African-American women, as stated by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, are at the highest risk for experiencing major depression.

Attending bi-weekly salon appointments, one could argue that women are visiting the hair salon more often than a therapist. Despite the commonality of depression and anxiety, stigmas surrounding mental health within the black community often deter women from seeking help.

According to the executive director of the Black Beauty Shop Health Foundation, Margot LaDrew, the beauty salon is the one place that black women literally let their hair down and discuss their greatest struggles. In agreement with LaDrew’s sentiments, Kaiser Permanente prompted her health care organization with a two-year, $80,000 grant to launch the Mindful Beauty program.

“Mindful Beauty is an innovative mental health program that allows us to smartly and safely start the process of reducing the stigma behind mental health,” LaDrew said. The five-week program will leverage the special hairstylist-client bond to provide the health outreach and education required to aid in reducing depression.

Janae Oliver, the founder of the Mindful Beauty Initiative and community health manager for Kaiser Permanente, said, “This program is about starting a real conversation through interventions that get women well before they reach the doors of our health care system.”

The program is a collaboration among South Los Angeles medical school Charles Drew University, Black Beauty Shop Health Foundation and the California Black Women’s Health Project.

Oliver thought of the program when she was a student at Charles R. Drew University. Growing up in South Los Angeles, her sister was a hairstylist. She shared client stories with Oliver and expressed that she was, “like a therapist.”

With her sister’s stories in mind and after doing research, Oliver noticed that black women typically were not represented in data about mental health. She also noticed that many people within the black community do not trust that they can visit a mental health specialist without being seen as “crazy” because of stigmas surrounding mental health issues in the black community.

Oliver and a group of classmates decided to make that the focus of their class project and Mindful Beauty was born.

Cynthia Davis, assistant professor at Charles Drew University College of Science and Health, is looking forward to launching the program, as she feels it is long overdue.

“Our hope is that the results will be very positive and that Mindful Beauty can be replicated across the country,” Davis said. Charles Drew University’s resources will be used to capture and measure the program’s outcomes.

“As a hairstylist for over 20 years, I have often found that I am one of the few people outside of a close friend, family member, intimate partner or physician that has knowledge of the issues that women who sit in my chair face on a daily basis,” said Maisha Oliver, celebrity hairstylist and program champion.

Oliver believes that Mindful Beauty is likely to have a positive impact on African-American women. At the end of the program, stylists in South Los Angeles beauty salons will receive certificates and will have the opportunity to their knowledge to assist black women in the community.

The program will be geared toward women 18 and over. Maisha Oliver and others will participate in training led by the California Black Women’s Health Project.

Other stylists are still going through a recruitment process and, if picked, will participate in a seven-module training. Through this training, they will learn to recognize signs of depression as well as cultural factors that should be taken into consideration.

Each case will be confidential and client referrals will take place through community clinics such as UMMA Community Clinic and ROADS Community Care Clinic. The Mindful Beauty program is expected to launch this summer.

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers
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Government

State Seeks to Boost Mental Health Counseling

OAKLAND POST — It’s 1 p.m. on a balmy Oak­land afternoon as residents of Great Expectations Residen­tial Care, a home for people with mental illness, gather in an activity room for a game of bingo. Lee Frierson, an unpaid vol­unteer, introduces himself as he and his team leader, Charlie Jones, unpack chips, soda, bat­teries and shampoo that they will hand out as prizes.

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Reach Out Program Manager Charlie Jones, right, and volunteer Lee Frierson, take a short break after leading a game of bingo with mental health patients at an Oakland, California, board-and-care home. (Photo by: Rob Waters)
By Rob Waters

It’s 1 p.m. on a balmy Oak­land afternoon as residents of Great Expectations Residen­tial Care, a home for people with mental illness, gather in an activity room for a game of bingo.

Lee Frierson, an unpaid vol­unteer, introduces himself as he and his team leader, Charlie Jones, unpack chips, soda, bat­teries and shampoo that they will hand out as prizes.

“I’m Lee with Reach Out,” Frierson says. “I’m a peer. I suffer from depression. It helps me to help you guys.”

“And I’m Charlie the angel,” Jones says. “We go to board-and-cares and psychiatric and wellness facilities to inspire hope and model recovery.”

A few rounds into the game, Frierson calls B-5, and a dark-haired man shouts, “Bingo!”

“Winner, winner, chicken dinner!” Frierson calls back, prompting chuckles.

What unfolds in this room is not exactly therapy, but it is something that mental health advocates and research suggest can be healing in its own right: people who have struggled with mental illness helping others who are experiencing similar struggles. Frierson and Jones are former mental health patients who now work with the Reach Out program, part of the nonprofit Alameda County Network of Mental Health Cli­ents, which provides what is called peer support.

The value of peer support is recognized by Medicaid, the health insurance program for people with low incomes, and it funds such services. That money is available for certified peer-support workers in states that have a formal certification process.

California does not, and that means it is “leaving money on the table,” said Keris Myrick, chief of peer services at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. South Da­kota is the only other state with no peer certification program.

But a bill pending in Sac­ramento, SB-10, would direct the State Department of Health Care Services to create a pro­cess for certifying peer sup­port workers and establish a set of core aptitudes and ethics guidelines for the job. The leg­islation passed the state Senate unanimously in May and will move to the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday.

More than 6,000 peer sup­port specialists already work in wellness programs, hospitals and clinics across California, according to SB-10’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose). They help mental health pa­tients navigate bureaucracies, find housing or locate services.

“They’re sharing their expe­riences: ‘Been there, done that, now I’m going to help another person,’” said Myrick, who has been diagnosed with schizoaf­fective disorder, was hospitalized several times and spent 10 years running a peer support program in Los Angeles.

Last year, the legislature unanimously passed a bill to certify peer support workers, but then-Gov. Jerry Brown ve­toed it, saying it was costly and unnecessary.

Legislative analysts esti­mate the state would spend hundreds of thousands of dol­lars to set up a certification pro­cess and millions more a year to implement it. Advocates say the new federal money would help offset those costs. And, they say, the legislation would cement the bona fides of peer mentoring as an occupation.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has not declared his position on the current bill, but he has said that addressing the state’s mental health crisis is a top priority for his administration. During his campaign for governor, he endorsed “expanded roles for nurse practitioners and peer providers.”

Dr. Thomas Insel, a former director of the National Insti­tute of Mental Health whom Newsom named in May as a key mental health adviser, told California Healthline he sup­ports the peer certification bill.

“For many people, hav­ing a connection to someone else who’s had this experi­ence proves vital,” Insel said. “There may be nothing more healing than giving people an opportunity to help others.”

Peer programs grew out of a movement in the 1970s op­posing coercive psychiatric treatment, led by people who’d been treated against their will and felt they would receive better care from those who personally identified with their experiences.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post
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HBCU

UnitedHealth Invests $8M to Educate, Train Minority Data Scientists

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University are among historically Black institutions poised to receive funding for analytics and data science training through an $8.25 million investment by UnitedHealth Group.

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Dave Wichmann, CEO, UnitedHealth Group (Courtesy of unitedhealthgroup.com)

Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University are among historically Black institutions poised to receive funding for analytics and data science training through an $8.25 million investment by UnitedHealth Group.

The five-year funding initiative will help Atlanta University Center Consortium Data Science Initiative improve education in health care analytics at historically black colleges and universities.

“Many universities have refocused existing programs or developed new efforts to respond to the need for this, yet these responses are still insufficient based on projected demand,” AUCC Executive Director Todd Greene said in a statement. “The UnitedHealth Group funding will help to establish the base for this broad initiative, including hiring an accomplished director.

“Through UnitedHealth Group internships, guest lectures, faculty development opportunities and other joint efforts, our students will greatly benefit from this partnership with the world’s largest managed health care company,” Greene said.

UnitedHealth, which notes that job openings for data experts in the U.S. will exceed more than 2.7 million by next year, also emphasized that the investment is aimed at continuing to develop a 21st-century health workforce that can develop “personalized, culturally competent care, particularly in underserved communities.”

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer.

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Economy

Racial disparities make it harder to ‘die well’

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN – RECORDER — African Americans experience an earlier onset and greater risk of what may be referred to as lifestyle-related diseases — cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. More than 40 percent of African Americans over the age of 20 are diagnosed with high blood pressure, compared to 32 percent of all Americans.

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Grave (Photo by: rawpixel.com | pexels.com)
By Jason Ashe and Danielle L. Beatty Moody

The world got an idea recently from 92-year-old Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, who popularized mindfulness and meditation in the U.S. The monk returned to his home in Vietnam to pass his remaining years. Many admired his desire to live his remaining time in peace and dignity.

Researchers from the University of California-San Diego recently did a literature search to understand what Americans might consider to be a “good death” or “successful dying.” As can be expected, their findings varied. People’s views were determined by their religious, social and cultural norms and influences.

The researchers urged healthcare providers, caregivers and the lay community to have open dialogues about preferences for the dying process.

As scholars who study social health and human services psychology, we found something missing in these conversations — how race impacts life span. It’s important to recognize that not everyone has an equal chance at “dying well.”

Black population and ill health

Take the disease burden of the African American population.

African Americans experience an earlier onset and greater risk of what may be referred to as lifestyle-related diseases — cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. More than 40 percent of African Americans over the age of 20 are diagnosed with high blood pressure, compared to 32 percent of all Americans.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the likelihood of experiencing a first stroke is nearly twice as high for African Americans compared with Whites. African Americans are more than two times more likely to experience a stroke before the age of 55. At age 45, the mortality rate from stroke is three times higher for Blacks compared to Whites.

This disease burden consequently leads to their higher mortality rates and overall shorter life expectancy for Blacks compared to Whites.

And while the life expectancy gap differs by only a few years, 75.3 for Blacks and 78.9 for Whites as of 2016, research suggests that African Americans suffer more sickness. This is due in part to the increased prevalence of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes in this population.

Genetics, biological factors and lifestyle behaviors, such as diet and smoking, help explain a portion of these differences. However, researchers are still learning how race-related social experiences and physical environments affect health, illness and mortality.

Access to health care

One factor is that African Americans have historically underutilized preventive medicine and healthcare services. They also delay seeking routine, necessary health care — or may not follow medical advice.

One study found that during an average month, 35 percent fewer Blacks visited a physician’s office, and 27 percent fewer visited an outpatient clinic compared with Whites. “The only time I go to the doctor is when something is really hurting. But otherwise, I don’t even know my doctor’s name,” said a young African American male during a research study in Chicago.

There are reasons for this mistrust. Researchers who study medical mistrust argue that high-profile cases of medical experiments are still playing a role in how African Americans view healthcare systems and providers.

In the past, physicians have intentionally done harm against people of color. A well-known case is the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis” in African American men, which lasted from 1932 to 1972.

In this clinical study, 399 African American men who had already contracted syphilis were told that they were receiving free health care from the government. In fact, doctors, knowing their critical condition, were awaiting their deaths to subsequently conduct autopsies and study the disease’s progression.

Even though penicillin had been proven to treat syphilis by 1947, these men were denied the treatment.

Why discrimination matters for health

Other studies suggest that regardless of their knowledge of past medical abuse, many African Americans have low levels of trust in medical establishments.

“Doctors, like all other people, are subject to prejudice and discrimination,” writes Damon Tweedy, author of Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine. “While bias can be a problem in any profession, in medicine, the stakes are much higher.”

Unfortunately, these fears are underscored by empirical evidence that African Americans are less likely to receive pain medication management, higher quality care, or survive surgical procedures.

In addition, a growing body of literature has established that experiences of discrimination are extremely harmful to physical and mental health, particularly among African Americans. This research adds to the body of evidence that experiences of discrimination harm people’s health and may contribute to the increased rates of premature decline and death among Blacks.

What does it take to SOTdie well?

As African American scholars, we argue the “art of dying well” may be a distant and romantic notion for the African American community. African Americans are also exposed to earlier and more frequent deaths of close loved ones, immediate family members and friends.

Their increased “vulnerability to untimely deaths,” writes Duke University scholar Karla Holloway, shows African Americans’ lack of access to equitable and fair paths in life.

Before defining “a good death,” American society must first begin to fundamentally address how to promote quality living and longevity across all racial groups.

Story republished with permission from The Conversation.

Jason Ashe is a doctoral student in human services psychology at the University of Maryland. Danielle L. Beatty Moody is an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at the University of Maryland.

This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

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Afro

Bill Introduced to Improve Maternal Healthcare

THE AFRO — Expectant mothers face challenges when seeking quality prenatal care in the District of Columbia.  Economic and transportation barriers contribute to the District’s infant mortality rate which is amongst the worst in the nation. In 2018 there were an average of 36.1 deaths for every 100,000 live births while nationally the rate is 20.7.

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D.C. City Council member Charles Allen wrote a bill in support of expanding maternal health care opportunities to expectant mothers. (Courtesy Photo)

By Mark F. Gray

Expectant mothers face challenges when seeking quality prenatal care in the District of Columbia.  Economic and transportation barriers contribute to the District’s infant mortality rate which is amongst the worst in the nation. In 2018 there were an average of 36.1 deaths for every 100,000 live births while nationally the rate is 20.7.

The D.C. City Council is pondering a bill that pushes for better maternal health care services that would be covered under all forms of insurance in an attempt to provide better prenatal care for expectant mothers in the District.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen introduced legislation that proposes expanding the list of medical care provisions for expectant mothers. The Maternal Health Care Improvement and Expansion Act of 2019 would also create a Center for Maternal Wellness and includes a travel stipend to aid in transportation so patients can reach their preferred health care provider consistently during pregnancy.

“We know women need more access to health care during and after a pregnancy,” Allen said in his statement. “We know community-centered health care can improve outcomes.”

However, Black mothers are facing more dangerous outcomes during their pregnancies.  Figures reported by Allen’s office state Black women are dying at a rate that is three to four times higher than White expectant mothers.  Low income mothers are struggling to gain consistent regular preventive, prenatal and postpartum care which is contributing to the D.C.’s high maternal mortality rate also.

“Last year, this Council created a Maternal Mortality Review Committee, but we don’t have to wait for results to make improvements,” said Allen.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Councilmember Vincent Gray, would require private insurers, Medicaid, and the D.C. Healthcare Alliance to add pre and post natal services to it’s benefits.  It would cover at least two postpartum health care visits and home visits for maternal care and fertility preservation services. Currently, Medicaid only includes one postpartum visit after six weeks and ends postpartum medical coverage at 60 days.

Allen’s proposal addresses the barriers facing patients who find it difficult when traveling to their health care provider by offering financial assistance for travel to and from prenatal and postpartum visits.  Transportation availability is seen as a vital cog in the hope of improving infant survival rates in D.C.

“We know for some women transportation is a barrier,” Allen stated. “That’s why this bill also includes a travel stipend to get to their preferred health care provider. If we can’t get people there, none of these other changes will make a difference.”

This bill would extend coverage to one full year for extremely low income residents who are living well below the federal poverty line.

The bill also calls for establishing a Center on Maternal Health and Wellness. Allen wants to build community among women who are pregnant and would consolidate a portion of services to be conveniently available in one location.  The Center would offer childcare onsite while making its services available through telehealth and online.

At the Center, a group of maternal care coordinators would advise pregnant mothers on how to navigate through the services available in the District during pregnancy and postpartum.  It will promote maternal support groups and provide health and nutrition counseling, and distribute prenatal vitamins. Group counseling services would also be available for individuals or family members who have been impacted by an infant’s or mother’s death. This is similar to the District’s comprehensive breastfeeding center. 

“We know a sense of community can help pregnant women and new mothers talk through challenges,” said Allen.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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