The goal of Sista Midwife Productions is a “paradigm shift,” shares Nicole Deggins, CNM, MSN, MPH: “Changing the way that communities think about birth, birth in general, and then birth culture at large.” Sista Midwife Productions is a birth advocacy training and consulting agency located in New Orleans. The agency’s founder, Deggins, is also a certified nurse midwife, birth advocate, Black doula trainer, and community educator. This May at AMCHP 2023, you will find Deggins on not one but two panels at the conference.
We chatted with Deggins about what she hopes to get from AMCHP 2023.
Deggins admits that she has never attended an AMCHP conference before and that before working with AMCHP’s Women’s and Infant Health Team, she shared that government interactions for her meant “bureaucracy,” “paperwork,” “programs that have potential,” and “questions about who is accessing the money.”
Sista Midwife Productions is one of the community-based organizations (CBOs) that was engaged in the Healthy Beginning learning action collaborative. “What I do know is that the people who work at AMCHP really do care more than [people] in some spaces. Jessica [Stieger], Shanel [Tage], Jake [Mulroy], and Salomé [Araya] really care about their work,” she shares.
Highlighting that committing to attend and participate in a conference or even an hour-long meeting is different for small community-based organizations, Deggins notes that many of these organizations are made up of only a handful of people: “There [may be only like] four people are running the organization, doing direct service, applying for grants, networking, and going to conferences. So [I have to ask myself], is it worth it for me to expend 50% of my staff to attend a conference to hear about the problem and to offer solutions that may or may not come back to what I’m doing?”
Nearly every day, Deggins is recruited to participate on boards or advise different groups. She warns that many CBOs may feel the same, being asked for much and being spread out so thinly without much in return — in terms of payment or solutions.
For Deggins, a meaningful meeting is not one where the problems faced by her community and maternal-child health populations are rehashed and discussed theoretically — “We don’t need any more mind maps,” she says — but ones that implement a solution.
“We already know what we need,” Deggins explains. “We have maternity deserts. We have food deserts. We have breastfeeding deserts. We don’t have enough midwives. We don’t have enough doulas. We don’t have reimbursement. How many times do we have to say this?”
Deggins is looking forward to AMCHP 2023 because she hopes it will be different than the rooms in which the problem soaks the totality of the conversation.
“It’s about relationships, and relationships are also valuable. That’s actually how I learned about Healthy Beginnings, I already had these relationships in place with the Louisiana Department of Health, and one of my contacts invited me to participate.” But she adds, “It’s difficult when you’re coming to the table, where certain people are being paid because they’re on the clock and they are employees of hospitals and clinics” while leaders and staff of CBOs are taken away from their main programming to attend and provide ideas, feedback, and energy that might not evolve into anything.
What does she hope to get out of AMCHP23? Deggins “hope[s] to gain connections and conversations with people who are looking for valid solutions.”