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Partner Spotlight

Open Cities Health Center – Nubian Moms Project

Their purpose is to improve birth outcomes for high-risk women, by addressing the two largest risks to healthy births—low birth weight and adverse psychosocial exposure.

Spotlight Interview

June 2022

Interviewed: Ciana Cullens, M.A., Strategic Leadership, Nubian Moms Project Director at Open Cities Health Center
Interviewed by MNPQC Interns: Anna Maristela & Abi Rajasekaran

When and how was the Nubian Moms program at Open Cities founded?

Open Cities is a grantee of the Integrated Care for High-Risk Pregnancies (ICHRP) Pilot. From 2015 to 2016, ICHRP was launched in response to reducing birth weights and in hopes of improving outcomes for pregnant people. Apparent low birth weights and birth outcomes were concentrated in Hennepin County and Ramsey County. Additionally, it was clear that African American and Native American women have greater birth disparities when compared to White women.

What changes did Nubian Moms have to implement to adapt to COVID-19?

Nubian Moms had to implement virtual meetings, which was beneficial for moms. The moms actually liked virtual meetings more, especially if they were working and busy. Virtual support groups gained more attendance than previous in-person meetings, being more convenient for people with multiple kids. The few in-person meetings were hard for them, since they had to choose only one birth support person or family member to have in the room during their one-on-one meetings.

How can we as healthcare professionals help the Nubian Moms program and Open Cities carry out their mission?

The most impactful thing healthcare professionals can do is make referrals and calls to connect moms to Open Cities and Nubian Moms, especially for those in Ramsey County. Healthcare professionals need to show culturally reflective social support by educating themselves on the mission of Nubian Moms. is a great website with numerous resources and articles on why we do the work we do. Learning more can help practitioners understand why referrals to Nubian Moms are relevant.

Open Cities emphasizes the needs of African American mothers. Could you touch on the importance of empowering African American women, especially in the healthcare community?

Pregnant Black women are 2.3 times more likely to die than pregnant White women, and about half of maternal deaths in Minnesota are Native American. Nubian Moms serves as a bridge to connect women to services that support their health during their journey. We have three clinic sites for direct care (Nubian Moms is one of them), but we serve many more women even if they’re not part of our clinic systems. It is imperative that women have social support from others who look like them. It’s been demonstrated that this contributes to the reduction of low birth weights and empowers women through pregnancy. Disparities have always been there; they’ve just now gotten the much-needed attention they deserve. Now, Minnesota State Representative Ruth Richardson has pushed for the Dignity and Pregnancy Childbirth Act, which aims to reduce healthcare disparities that are impacting babies. Without compassion and respect in healthcare settings, pregnant women become terrified. So, we serve as a support system as they navigate through their journey of pregnancy.

How do Nubian Moms provide parents and potential parents with support? Could you provide some examples of the resources that Nubian Moms provides?

We provide case management support––culturally reflective case management––and care navigation. Another focus is providing a community for moms through support groups along with tangible resources as well. Some donations for new moms and their kids include baby items, blankets, baby clothing, etc. Other donations also include gift cards for food and gas, Pack ‘N Plays, and strollers. We receive these donations and then connect moms to what we have available. However, social support is just as impactful as these tangible items, especially since other organizations have these community resources elsewhere. Another service we provide is risk assessments. We then connect mothers and pregnant people to resources for their specific pain points and issues. For example, we might connect someone to housing resources. We meet them where they are to help alleviate their issues.

How have Nubian Moms made a positive impact? Could you share some personal stories about the people that Nubian Moms have affected?

We have a support group with New Diva, called Women Empowered Are Nubian. One time, there was this one mom who showed up with so much going on. In this virtual space, we were celebrating and honoring women’s history and Black mothers. We focused on this one mom, and by the end of the call, she expressed how thankful and grateful she was for this space to connect with other Black women and mothers. Although it’s not unique, that moment was an affirmation and a continual reminder that spaces like these are worth creating. We empowered her at that moment through a feeling of sisterhood and community. It was refreshing.

Another instance occurred when two moms were recently struggling with homelessness. We helped them connect to housing resources. Now, they are housed and stable with their babies. We try to create that center and peace for a healthy pregnancy through daily partnerships and support so that parents can be present in their pregnancy and parenthood.

Project Facilitator GrayHall LLC

Nora Hall | 651-222-8333