As Black and Brown communities face crisis-level maternal morbidity rates, Reynoso advances historic maternal health agenda with $100,000 allocation to launch “Born in Brooklyn” initiative for new parents
BROOKLYN, NY (November 1, 2022) – Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and Met Council today announced their pilot of “Born in Brooklyn” baby boxes, which contain free baby supplies and post-partum resources for new parents. Made possible by a $100,000 grant from the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President to Met Council, America’s largest Jewish charity, a total of 500 post-partum families receiving care at select Brooklyn hospitals and clinics will receive “Born in Brooklyn” baby boxes. The baby boxes will come as diaper bags containing baby-friendly supplies carefully selected by the Borough President’s Maternal Health Taskforce, such as diapers, perineal spray, baby wipes, nursing pads, nipple cream, diaper changing mats, post-partum pads, burping cloths, swaddles, and City’s First Readers books. A resource one-pager will accompany the boxes, with links to helpful guides for first-time parents and city-wide services.
New parents receiving care at NYC Health + Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health, NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, Brooklyn Perinatal Network, and Brownsville Neighborhood Health Action Center will begin to receive the baby boxes this month. This pilot builds on Borough President Reynoso’s commitment to reduce crisis-level maternal morbidity rates found among Black and Brown birthing people.
“When I was elected, I made a promise to Brooklyn that I would make this the safest place in the city to have a baby,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “The time after having a baby can be both beautiful and intense, with new parents facing post-partum recovery, financial pressures, and new responsibilities. My hope is that these ‘Born in Brooklyn’ baby boxes and the items carefully selected by our fantastic maternal health taskforce can help lessen that burden on families so they can focus on caring for their newest family member as well as their own mental and physical wellbeing. A huge thank you to our partner Met Council for producing these wonderful baby boxes, and to NYC Health + Hospitals, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, Brooklyn Perinatal Network, and Brownsville Neighborhood Health Action Center for getting them into the hands of Brooklyn families.”
“While welcoming a baby into the world is a wonderful and joyous experience, it can also be a stressful and anxiety-filled time for new parents,” said Met Council CEO David G. Greenfield. “That’s why we’re teaming up with Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso on this important initiative to make things easier during the post-partum period. Babies born in Brooklyn are a boon for our beautiful borough and providing the supplies and support that women need after childbirth will make a difference in their lives.”
Black and Brown women in Brooklyn face the highest maternal morbidity rates in the city, with one-third of mothers who died in New York City residing in Brooklyn. The majority of these deaths occur post-partum, within the first year after giving birth. The leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths is mental health. A small but important piece in the preventative care puzzle, the “Born in Brooklyn” baby boxes are designed not only to be a source of financial support, but also a source of mental health support as new parents recover from the physical and financial toll of childbirth, as well as sometimes elongated, uncompensated maternity leave as a result of complications resulting from childbirth.
“South Brooklyn Health is thankful for the support of Brooklyn Borough President Reynoso and the Met Council for providing Black and Brown families of South Brooklyn and surrounding communities with baby-friendly supplies that are not always easily accessible, but essential in caring for mom and baby,” said Dr. Maggie Tetrokalashvili, Chair of OB/GYN at NYC Health + Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health. “Eliminating disparities in maternal morbidity between women of color and their White counterparts is an integral component of the care delivered at South Brooklyn Health, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the Borough President in achieving health care equity.”
“As we know, COVID has and continues to impact many communities, including ours in the Bed-Stuy/Williamsburg/Bushwick areas. At NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull, we are committed to our patients, and we recognize the importance of bringing resources to them. We are excited to be a distribution center for the ‘Born in Brooklyn’ boxes. These boxes will provide our parents-to-be with items needed as they embark the parenthood journey. We are grateful for the support and positive impact that these boxes will bring to postpartum patients and their families. Thank you, Borough President Reynoso and Met Council, in providing these boxes to our community patients,” said Ada Villatoro, Senior Associate Director of Maternal Child Health at NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull.
“Woodhull is proud to partner with Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and Met Council to present our clients with the ‘Born in Brooklyn’ baby boxes. We hope that these small tokens celebrate the birth of the mother, newborn, and family and are also usable and helpful in meeting the community at their need,” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull Director of Midwifery Services Helena Grant, MS, CNM, LM, CICP, FACNM.
“The ‘Born in Brooklyn’ baby boxes are making it even more exciting to be born in Brooklyn! The boxes contain specially chosen items to keep babies safe and provide extra loving comfort those who care for them. Sincere thanks to the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President with Met Council for making the ‘Born in Brooklyn’ baby boxes available to NYC Health + Hospital patients,” said Wendy Wilcox, MD, MPH, MBA, FACOG, NYC Health + Hospitals Chief Women’s Health Service Officer and co-chair of Borough President Reynoso’s Maternal Health Taskforce.
“‘Born in Brooklyn’ boxes are full of items that serve the needs of parents and babies during the postpartum period. We are delighted to support families in these early days, and to help ease financial and other forms of stress,” said Dr. Zahirah McNatt, Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Brooklyn Neighborhood Health for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “We look forward to continuing to identify and respond to the needs of women and birthing persons across the borough of Brooklyn.”
“This is an excellent initiative. Borough President Reynoso is making maternal and infant health in Brown and Black communities a well-appreciated priority,” said Director of Nursing-Maternal Child Health Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County Vera Appiah-Agyemang, RN, MSN, CNM.
“I am thankful for the distribution of the ‘Born in Brooklyn’ baby boxes to new parents. Having readily available resources at one’s disposal can help alleviate stress, and in turn help with emotional wellness,” said Christina Sparrock, Mental Health Advocate.
During his campaign, Borough President Reynoso highlighted the gross inequity that Black pregnant people in Brooklyn are 9.4 times more likely to die due to childbirth complications than their white counterparts. As Borough President, he pledged to reduce this disparity in Brooklyn and make the borough the safest place to have a baby in the city by the end of his administration.
“I commend Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso for his tremendous efforts to address the inequities in maternal healthcare and to make Brooklyn the safest borough in the city to have a baby. The ‘Born in Brooklyn’ baby box program will surely provide relief and education to new parents, by not only providing some much-needed baby supplies, but also through the sharing information and resources to provide access to everything these parents will need to safely take care of their child,” said Chair of NYC Council Committee on Hospitals Mercedes Narcisse.
“I recently gave birth at Woodhull Hospital, and while I had a positive, supportive experience, I also know there’s no such thing as too much support. The ‘Born in Brooklyn’ pilot is an important program that recognizes the real needs that moms have to keep themselves and their babies healthy. I’m grateful to Borough President Reynoso for his work in this space and continuing to lift up maternal health as a priority,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez.
“I am thrilled to see Borough President Reynoso’s Maternal Health Taskforce in action, and I know these families will be better for it. Both the newborns and their mothers can be most vulnerable immediately after birth, and it is the responsibility of our government to protect both the longtime and absolute-newest members of our communities. Standing up for Black and Brown women, who face the highest rates of maternal morbidity in New York City, is central to our objectives as elected representatives. I applaud Mr. Reynoso and his taskforce for their work with the ‘Born in Brooklyn’ baby boxes and look forward to their benefits being felt throughout the lifetimes of these brand-new Brooklynites and their mothers,” said Council Member Chi Ossé.
“The importance of maternal and infant health doesn’t end when parents leave the hospital. This program from Borough President Reynoso will help give Brooklyn families the resources they need to feel prepared for this exciting moment in their lives,” said Council Member Lincoln Restler.
In April 2022, Borough President Reynoso launched his Maternal Health Taskforce to begin developing and executing his maternal health agenda, and by July 2022, Borough President has allocated his entire $45M FY23 capital budget toward maternal health care improvements at the three Brooklyn public hospitals:
- NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County: $15.625M to renovate the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) and mother-baby units;
- NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island: $18.5M to renovate the outpatient care center, labor and delivery rooms, post-partum recovery rooms, and NICU; and
- NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull: $11M to build a state-of-the-art birthing center.
Borough President Reynoso is the first Borough President to allocate an entire fiscal year’s capital funding to one cause, and within one city organization.