Angel Griffin is a first-year Master of Public Health student studying Maternal and Child Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Public Health at Xavier University of Louisiana in 2016. Outside of school, she is a birth doula serving Chicago mothers.
What led you to work as a community health worker?
When I was attending Xavier University of Louisiana, I worked under retired midwife, Nicole Deggins, CNM. Nicole ran SistaMidwife Productions, LLC. We went door-to-door, meeting families in New Orleans to promote breastfeeding, specifically targeting Black mothers, and sharing information that Nicole and SistaMidwife Productions, LLC offered. We frequently visited Healthy Start New Orleans and WIC New Orleans to advocate for our community. I was inspired by Nicole’s work, especially her ability to build relationships with community members, gaining their trust and respect. This led me to become a birth doula. I hope to impact my own community in the same way Nicole has done in New Orleans.
What are the biggest barriers for your clients?
I have noticed that mothers are often viewed as the vessel for their baby, leading to a focus on the mother’s physical health, often unintentionally excluding the emotional and mental aspects of pregnancy and labor. I have seen this resulting in a lack of preparedness for new mothers because birth options and the stress of pregnancy is not discussed with healthcare providers.
What motivates you to be a community health worker?
Now as a birth doula, I feel that my main role is to address the emotional and mental aspects of pregnancy and labor. My mothers, regardless of socioeconomic status or race, all experience exhaustion, sadness, and loneliness at some point during their pregnancy. These experiences drive me to support and listen, helping mothers overcome their vulnerabilities and feel empowered.
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a community health worker?
Community health workers (CHWs), especially doulas, are needed because they bring policy down to earth since they are the ones interacting with communities. If you are interested in becoming a CHW, I recommend finding a role that you are passionate about. CHWs devote lots of time and energy into their cause, so entering a field of work blindly could lead to burnout and exhaustion. As a birth doula, I have overcome challenges of my own. Recently, a mother I worked with lost her baby. This unforeseen tragedy was unexplainably sorrowful and discouraging. I had a difficult time dealing with this loss, but by acknowledging the joy I have for my work I was able to grow through the experience and continue to persevere. It is important to be flexible as a CHW because community members need help at all times. I am often contacted during any given time during the day or night from my clients, but it energizes and inspires my work as a birth doula.