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Los Angelos, CA–Dustin Young is helping Black moms have safer births. The founder and President of Our Own, an organization that supports Black women’s health among other issues, is a birth doula, providing resources for pregnant women, before, during, and after birth.

So far, Mr. Young has supported three women during their pregnancies and births, and is a certified birth doula through Kindred Space Los Angeles, in California. 

Mr. Young noted he has always been interested in birth, and “As I got older, I just kind of look at women as gods essentially, ” he said in an interview. His sister’s experience during pregnancy and birth inspired Mr. Young to become involved with the entire process. Mr. Young noted he stayed with her during her labor and birth, cutting the cord when his nephew was born. 

Striking racial disparities in maternal mortality rates

In Los Angeles county, where Mr. Young lives and works, Black women have a maternal mortality rate four times the rate of White women. Across the United States, Black women face pregnancy-related health conditions at much higher rates as well. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, Black women risk cardiomyopathy, thrombotic pulmonary embolism, and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy at higher rates than White women. Each of those complications increase the risk of pregnancy-related death. 

Addressing racial health disparities is just one aspect of Mr. Young’s role as President of Our Own, which provides resources and support to empower marginalized and vulnerable communities. The organization operates across a variety of health-related factors, including mental health, physical activity, nutrition, and education for underserved communities.

Mr. Young knows that with more pregnancy and birth help, Black communities can address the high maternal mortality rate. He also encourages other Black men to support women during pregnancy and birth, with a focus on empowerment. “I empower the men to be there and let them know like ‘you are part of the process.’”

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...