Nakeitra Burse

Nakeitra Burse
Location: Madison, Mississippi Cohort Start Year: 2019 Project Topics: Health Care Access, Health Care Quality, Maternal and Infant Health, Public Policy, Public, Population and Community Health, Racial Justice Populations Served: Adults (21-64 years), African-American/Black, Children and Families, Women's Health
Owner/Principal Strategist
Six Dimensions

Black women are three to four times more likely to die from birth-related complications than their white counterparts—a crisis that requires a systems approach. Dr. Nakeitra Burse is working to address this issue through building the visibility and capacity of birth workers to serve Black families and ensure that Black maternal health research is community driven and focused on positive health outcomes.

Her storytelling work, lifting up the stories of mothers and birth workers, has been the catalyst for her systems-level work. As a part of her strategic initiative, Dr. Burse is creating a birth worker registry (Mississippi Mother and Birth Worker Community) to ensure that Black families in Mississippi can find and access birth worker services. Community involvement and awareness are critical to improving health outcomes; therefore, Dr. Burse is also developing a Doula Advisory Council as the driving force of the Mississippi Mother and Birth Worker Community.

Additionally, Dr. Burse has recognized that community-based work is rarely elevated to the national level, which is important for replication. She has also recognized that research is usually conducted “on” community, as opposed to with community, which perpetuates inequities. Therefore, she is creating a community-based institutional review board to ensure more equitable, accessible, and accurate data on maternal health outcomes that will support evidence-based strategies.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Mississippi Birth Doula Initiative to Support Black Women
Mississippi’s social and healthcare systems consistently evolve without regard to the state’s most vulnerable populations—black people and women. Historical trauma rooted in racism is the primary facilitator of health inequities. Between 2013 and 2016, there were 136 maternal deaths, with over half of those deaths being black women. Additionally, early COVID-19 data showed black people accounting for over 70 percent of the cases and over half of the deaths. Though different health issues, it is evident that racism and historical trauma drive the inequities in Mississippi.

My strategic initiative will aim to address issues of health equity in Mississippi by developing and supporting a community advisory council of birth workers to manage a doula registry for the state. I am currently working on a project to increase access to birth workers in Mississippi, and this initiative will provide additional support to the birth community by developing a community research review board. I am also working on a project to create a health equity task force for Mississippi. This addition will support more equitable research. The area of focus is the black community in Mississippi, with an emphasis on black women. Partners are Magnolia Medical Foundation and the Institute for the Advancement of Minority Health.

Dr. Burse is a collaborative leader, understanding that improving maternal health outcomes requires multiple strategies, partners, and solutions as well as dedicated focus on health outcomes. Her work is a collaborative effort among Mississippi-based organizations and individuals. Dr. Burse has always been an advocate for reproductive health, rights, and justice, but she came to maternal health as a part of her personal mission. After experiencing maternal and infant mortality in her own immediate family, she committed her work to not only addressing inequities, but more importantly, consistently seeking and implementing solutions and challenging systemic inequities—specifically racism in health and healthcare.

Her work in this field has gained national attention. After producing the short documentary, Laboring With Hope, which has been viewed by more than 5,000 people across the country, she has committed to continuously creating innovative strategies to improve Black maternal health outcomes. Her work has been featured in Soledad O’Brien’s Disrupt & Dismantle series as well as the Kelly Clarkson Show.

Click here to watch Dr. Burse’s Legacy Project video.