Issue Based

Rural Funders Group: Laboring for Equity - Birth and Mother Care in Rural Places

Rural Funders Group: Laboring for Equity - Birth and Mother Care in Rural Places

Image of a farm land and homestead in Sublimity, Oregon

Event details

Thursday, April 27, 2023
10:00am to 11:30am PDT
Non-Member Rate: 
Member Rate: 

About this event

Rural mothers and babies depend on an increasingly fragile system of care during pregnancy and birth. Providers and clinics are few, and now hospitals are reducing services or closing. The worst rural outcomes show up for Black, Native Americans and other people of color. Join us for this session to discuss what is happening with rural birth and hear about two programs that work specifically with BIPOC moms and babies.


Jessica Houseman-Whitehawk, Ttáwaxt Birth Justice Center

Jessica Houseman-Whitehawk is a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and Santee Sioux descendant. Her favorite job is being a mother of three children ages twenty-three, twenty and fifteen. She has worked in many positions locally, statewide and nationally building programs and systems for tribal communities. She is the founder/executive director of the Ttáwaxt Birth Justice Center, located on the Yakama Nation Reservation, providing medical and community-driven practices for pregnant women and families with small children. She also owns Whitehawk Strategies LLC, a consulting business with a focus on creating new systems in the community involving Indigenous birth justice, system building, data sovereignty, program development and advocacy.



Julia Interrante, PhD, MPH, University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center

Dr. Interrante is a health services researcher and epidemiologist with expertise in maternal health and health care access. Her research examines the effects of policy on maternal health outcomes and on access to maternity care services with a specific focus on geographic and racial equity, and includes topics such as disparities in severe maternal morbidity and mortality, changing access to rural maternity care and the impact of payment policies on maternal and postpartum care. 

Dr. Interrante also worked as an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She developed data quality assessment protocols and tools, conducted data use training and provided policy guidance and technical assistance to foreign Ministries of Health and domestic Departments of Health.


Sona Smith, Ms. Foundation

Sona Smith (she/her) is the birth justice program officer at the Ms. Foundation. She has been working in non-profit and movement spaces for over fifteen years, with experience developing, implementing and managing innovative programs that serve young people in Chicago and beyond. She is deeply committed to improving the lives of youth, families and organizations in disinvested communities. Throughout her career, she has worked for various organizations, including Chicago Volunteer Doulas as the executive director. She has a rich history in youth development, program management, leveraging community support and resources, developing coalitions and building relationships with a shared sense of purpose. Her work in the birth justice movement has included serving as a birth doula and lactation peer.



Philanthropy Northwest's Rural Funders group is an opportunity for rural funders from across the country to discuss topics and learn best practices alongside peers who serve rural communities.

Registration and Sponsorship

In 2023, the Rural Funders Group calls will be free to Philanthropy Northwest members and $50 for non-members (limited scholarships available). Members must log in to register and get the member rate. 

If the series is relevant to your work and you wish to underwrite or sponsor the Rural Funders Group series, please contact Lyn Hunter.

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MewinzhaKaiser Permanente of WashingtonPremera Blue CrossArabella Advisors