There was an article published in 1977 in the New England Journal of Medicine called “Zones of Excess Mortality in Massachusetts” which drew attention to areas of high rates of infant mortality in the state, with a concentration in Boston’s Black neighborhoods. In September of 1990, The Boston Globe published a five part series titled “Birth in the ‘Death Zones’” pointing to the tragedy of this racial inequity in the shadow of Boston’s world renowned hospitals. This was also around the same time that at least one hospital midwifery program in Boston was eliminated.
In response, public health officials, community health center leaders, midwives, and community organizers organized to better understand the racial inequity in birth outcomes and to develop solutions. They established the Consortium of Black Health Center Directors and also talked about a plan for a freestanding birth center in Boston.
Political will, and pushback from insurance companies and hospitals, made it hard to move the project forward at that time. However, their tireless commitment to public health in Boston paved the way for us to revisit this idea once more. We reconvened many of these leaders in January 2015 and decided this was the right time to try again. Today, these leaders are the senior advisors for this project and their history guides this movement.
Read more about The Evolution of Maternity Care in the United States with a history of the development and rise of birth centers.