Innovative Strategies and Potential Policy Levers for Birth Equity – NCIOM Annual Meeting

Blog | December 6, 2022


The central theme of the NCIOM’s 2022 Annual Meeting was exploring the best approaches for responding to North Carolina’s health care workforce challenges.


During a panel titled Innovative Strategies and Potential Policy Levers for Birth Equity, speakers Cindy McMillan, Rhonda Lanning, Julissa Thompson, Dr. Velma Taoromina, and Dr. Rachel Peragallo spoke passionately from the perspectives of doula, researcher, lactation consultant, parent navigator, physician, and midwife. This diverse panel presented a snapshot of the viewpoints of the workforce most intimately connected to providing care and support to birthing families in our state. The panel reinforced what we understand about the importance of diversity in the health care workforce with specific examples of the impact diversity makes on birthing patients and the people dedicated to serving them.


Panelists discussed the time necessary for workforce diversification and suggested pathway programs as a promising step forward. Getting students interested in medicine early was a common theme throughout the day and rang true during this session. Engaging elementary and middle school aged children and sparking interest in the field of medicine was highlighted as a promising opportunity to bring us one step closer to building a workforce that reflects the diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds of the people in our state.


In addition to discussing the vision for the future of the birthing workforce, panelists shared current initiatives designed to improve birth outcomes through reimagining how our current workforce delivers care. Central to the initiatives shared was an understanding that community should be the focus of any next steps for closing the gaps in disparities in birth outcomes and addressing inequity in birthing experiences. Panelists spoke to the importance of reducing barriers to entry into the health care workforce and embracing community-centered approaches to ensure the needs of both the workforce and the patients they serve are met.


At the heart of this session was the acknowledgement of the shared histories of the people who have dedicated their lives to supporting healthy parents and babies. Panelists recognized that indigenous and Black enslaved people were the first midwives on the land we currently inhabit. While there was no singular answer presented to resolve the issue of how to best advance birth equity in North Carolina, this panel made clear that part of the solution is putting people and community first and center.