January 30, 2020
In 2019, when Anna Claire Vollers, an investigative reporter with Reckon/AL.com, set out to write a series of articles on “Motherhood in Alabama,” she suspected the topic contained “a multitude of broken things.”
She knew, for example, that Alabama ranks among those states with the highest infant and maternal mortality rates. A young mother herself, Ms. Vollers also had concerns about maternal health, safety in childbirth, and workplace struggles.
But the project proved more compelling and urgent that she guessed, and she was soon covering stories on preventable deaths from pregnancy and child birth.
One year later, Ms. Vollers has written more than a dozen articles revealing the plight of Alabama mothers. Additionally, she has helped organize a diverse online community, Reckon Women, that addresses issues of importance to women all over the South.
In the process, she has made an “outstanding and lasting contribution” to the welfare of Alabama mothers and their babies, according to Dalia Abrams and Susan Petrus, co-founders of the not-for-profit BirthWell Partners Community Doula Project, which co-sponsors the annual Earthy Birthy Fair and Family Wellness Expo.
“For a long time, health and welfare issues related to motherhood have not gotten much attention, outside of the birthing community,” says Ms. Petrus. “So we are thrilled to see Anna Claire’s ‘Motherhood in Alabama’ series call for important changes and spark new activism with Reckon Women.”
On Feb. 22, at the Fair, BirthWell Partners will present Ms. Vollers its new Advocate of the Year Award for 2020, says Ms. Abrams. “We are finally seeing momentum for positive change for new mothers and babies in Alabama. We created this annual award to recognize people like Anna Claire who are leading the charge to make Alabama a more welcoming state for young families.”
Ms. Vollers will receive the BirthWell Partners award at 1 p.m. and give a presentation at 1:30 p.m. on “7 things I learned from spending a year reporting on mothers in Alabama”, a recent article that offers her inspiring vision for activism, community response, and public policy.
Ms. Vollers has spent 10 years as a journalist for Alabama Media Group. Awards include the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award for feature reporting, and Story of the Year from the Alabama Associated Press Media Editors. Her work appears online at AL.com and in print in the state’s three largest newspapers: The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and Mobile’s Press-Register. She’s been interviewed on national outlets including CNN, MSNBC and NPR’s All Things Considered. She lives in Huntsville, Ala. with her husband and their three sons, two cats, one dog and a hedgehog. You can see more of her work at http://annaclairevollers.com/ Find Ms. Vollers on Twitter @acvollers and on Facebook, fb.me/acvollers.
BirthWell Partners Community Doula Project was founded in Birmingham, AL, in 2011, to improve the health of low-resource families and their infants in Central Alabama. Unique in the state, the organization offers free and reduced-cost childbirth education, breastfeeding assistance, and non-medical labor support provided by birth doulas. (A doula is a trained, non-medical, pregnancy and birth support professional). Since its founding, BirthWell Partners has trained over 250 doulas and provided childbirth classes and pregnancy support for more than 500 women in central Alabama. Research shows BWP doula-supported clients are 10 times more likely to breastfeed their babies, compared to local averages for similar births. Additionally, these moms are significantly less likely to have a cesarean birth or to need an epidural. And their babies are more likely to be born full term, with a higher birthweight.
Who: Anna Claire Vollers, BirthWell Partners (BWP) Advocate of the Year
What: Awards Ceremony and Talk, “ 7 things I learned from spending a year reporting on mothers in Alabama”
When: 1-2 p.m. (Fair runs from noon to 4 p.m.)
Where: Earthy Birthy Fair & Family Wellness Expo, Innovation Depot
How: Free & open to the public; to register for the Fair in advance, click here.