Grantee Update: VNA Central Jersey

By: Jackie Jankewicz

An Impact 100 Jersey Coast grant of $107,500 in 2021 to the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Central Jersey’s Children and Family Health Institute funded the education, training and certification of 11 bilingual, multicultural Doulas. The program is part of Monmouth County’s first ever Doula Learning Collaborative with the goal to improve poor birth outcomes among low-income women and minority women — especially those without insurance.

Program Updates and Outcomes

  • Focus on holistic care by providing advice, information, emotional support and physical comfort to the mother during the prenatal phase.
  • Know how to educate and access birth control options for women post-pregnancy
  • Improve postpartum care. Doulas know the warning signs of problems after a woman gives birth, such as heavy bleeding or depression.
  • The program successfully arranged for the Doulas to submit applications to become Medicaid providers, so that women without insurance can have the services covered.
  • The program has empowered women in the community to start a new career path. So far these Doulas in training have been connected with 79 pregnant women.
  • The learning collaborative brings the doulas together to network, learn and support each other. As they continue to grow in their practice, they will be able to help even more women and babies.
  • The program brought awareness of the value of community-based doulas to the community and the local hospitals.

“The Impact100 Jersey Coast grants are so valuable to non-profit agencies and the communities here along the Jersey Shore. Impact is a funder that believes in empowering non-profits with a vision to use innovative solutions to address community problems. We were able to do our best work and make this initiative successful,” said Colleen Nelson, Vice President of VNA’s Children and Family Health Institute  

There’s strong evidence that working with a doula can reduce childbirth complications. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) report that the continuous presence of a doula during pregnancy is one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes. Because of the success of the program through our support, VNACJ will seek additional grant funders to continue the program in Monmouth County and to replicate it in other NJ counties.

What the Birth Moms are Saying 

  • “Amazing delivery, all went so well, so thankful and I appreciate all the help and support I received from my Doula. She was amazing and was such a big help.”
  • “The Doula was very helpful to me and gave me great information before the delivery and after the baby came.”
  •  “The Doula was so helpful, excellent person. She made things so much easier for me. I appreciate her and wish I had a Doula with my boy.”
  • “The Doula was a big help. I am so thankful. She helped explain things to me.”

Importance of the Doula Learning Collaborative

Women of color are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women[1]. An Impact 100 grant is helping to change that by creating community-based doulas to guide and support low-income, minority women before, during and after pregnancy.

Doulas (non-clinical pregnancy coaches) actively work to strengthen the communication between an expectant mother and her healthcare providers.   Trained to recognize complications of pregnancy –such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes — they advocate for the best care.   In addition to prenatal care, doulas help with labor and delivery and provide postnatal assistance with breastfeeding, newborn care, postpartum depression and parenting wellness. 

Community doulas do all of the above but because they live and work in the community, and speak many languages, they are able to help bridge cultural barriers and assist with communication between hospital staff and pregnant women.  They also know how to connect pregnant women with community resources. 

[1] According to report on U.S. maternal mortality rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey

2021 Grantee



Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals and families achieve their best level of well-being by providing compassionate, coordinated, and innovative care in their homes and communities.


To address the alarming health outcomes data regarding the difference in the mortality rate of white women and babies, and women and babies of color, New Jersey is investing in culturally sensitive health services, including Doulas or nonclinical pregnancy/birth coaches, to improve birth outcomes. This grant would help fund a collaboration between VNA of Central Jersey, Jersey Shore University Medical Center’s Booker Family Health Center, and VNACJ Community Health Center to establish the first-ever Doula Learning Collaborative in Monmouth County. Key components include recruiting 10 prospective multi-cultural doulas from at-risk communities; subsidizing their training in a state-approved program and creating a learning community to support each doula’s development and to teach additional skills – in particular, the business skills to form a cooperative, successfully bill Medicaid for services rendered and provide excellent patient experience.

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