Walmart Expands Health Services to Address Racial Inequality in Illinois, Indiana


NEW YORK (AP) – Walmart is expanding health care coverage for employees who wish to hire the services of a doula, a person trained to help women during pregnancies, to address racial inequities in maternal care .

After first offering doulas to its employees in Georgia last year, the nation’s largest retailer said Wednesday it would extend the same benefit to employees in Louisiana, Indiana and Illinois.

Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women, largely due to differences in the quality of health care, underlying chronic conditions and structural racism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Employing a doula as part of a birthing team reduces C-sections by 50%, shortens labor time by 25% and decreases the need for other medical interventions by more than 50%, according to the National Black Doulas Association.

Walmart said it chose to expand coverage to Louisiana, Indiana and Illinois because of the potential for instant impact for employees who live in those three states. The company said that in Louisiana, the death rate is five times higher for black mothers than for white mothers. Walmart said that in Indiana, 33 counties do not have OB-GYN services.

“Our goal in expanding this doula benefit, a service not normally covered by traditional medical plans, is not just to make pregnancy easier for mothers in these states, but to help keep them safe,” said writes Lisa Woods, Walmart vice president of physical and emotional well-being, and Warren Moore, vice president of social determinants of health at Walmart in a company blog.

Employees on the company’s medical plan can receive assistance from a doula with coverage of up to $1,000 per pregnancy, Walmart said Wednesday. The company already has a Life with Baby program, which offers free resources like one-on-one coaching from a nurse, tools to track daily progress, and gifts for new babies.

Other major US companies also offer employee doula services, including CVS Health and Microsoft.


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