Two Steve Hicks School professors tackle maternal health in Central Texas
As a mother who experienced postpartum depression and mood disorders first-hand, professor Elaine Cavazos has dedicated her life’s work to reproductive mental health. Cavazos is passionate about serving all parents and is concerned about the barriers that keep marginalized populations from receiving quality mental health services during this time in their lives.
In addition to keeping her private practice and teaching at the Steve Hicks School, Cavazos is the president of the Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas. The organization provides financial resources for pregnant and postpartum women who need access to healthcare treatment and services such as psychotherapy, psychiatric evaluations, and postpartum doula care. The alliance also sponsors the biennial Texas Perinatal Mental Health and Wellness Conference with the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.
“It’s gratifying to intervene in the lives of women who struggle and see their work to adjust to their new identity after having a child,” Cavazos said. “I want other social workers to have that experience. I want them to feel equipped to continue this work so we can change outcomes for women and their families.”
Black women in Texas are 2.3 times more likely to die while giving birth compared to white women, regardless of income, education, marital status or health factors. Researchers have identified institutional racism as the biggest determinant of negative outcomes for black women.
Professor Michele Rountree is facing this disparity head on. She founded the Black Mamas Community Collective to improve outcomes for black mothers in Travis County through education, awareness and policy solutions.
Comprised of black mothers, activists and leaders, Black Mamas ATX hosts sister-circle support meetings, where sister doulas and a behavioral health provider share advice with mothers. Black Mamas ATX also advocates for diversity within the Texas healthcare system and provides training to healthcare professionals to recognize and address institutional racism.