In May, Mayor Muriel Bowser welcomed a baby girl. Earlier this month, she welcomed hundreds to Washington, D.C.’s inaugural maternal & infant health summit.

The first conference of its kind in the District, the Mayor Muriel Bowser Maternal and Infant Health Summit hosted more than 1,000 attendees at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The September 12 summit brought together policymakers, healthcare providers, maternal and pediatric medicine leaders, and current and future mothers to address maternal and infant healthcare issues.

A distinguished mayoral panel kicked off the event, featuring Mayor Bowser and Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Mayor Lovely Warren and Mayor Karen Weaver. The group shared maternal and infant health best practices, unique challenges and lessons they have each learned as chief executive of their respective cities.

The District’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Roger A. Mitchell Jr., moderated the second panel, which addressed a wide range of issues and developments in maternal and infant health including birth outcomes and community health best practices that could inform policy at the federal, state and local levels. The final morning panel included leaders from community-driven programs including the Early Childhood Innovation Network, Smart From the Start and DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. These leaders spoke about evidence-based initiatives to address disparities in the District.

After a morning of captivating and vital discussions, summit attendees enjoyed a relaxing luncheon while meeting and networking with other attendees. During lunch, Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of Urban One, invited Mayor Muriel Bowser back to the stage to have a conversation with Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, about maternal health.

Photo of Cathy Hughes, Valerie Jarrett and Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Pictured from left to right, Cathy Hughes, Valerie Jarrett and Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Shortly after the luncheon, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh discussed lessons learned followed by a doctor panel representing Howard University College of Medicine, Kaiser Permanente, Massachusetts Perinatal Quality Collaborative and MedStar Washington Hospital Center. The doctors weighed in on geographic and quality innovations in perinatal health, including current recommendations and standards of care for expectant women.

Between sessions, the conference showed videos of District mothers relating their unique and inspiring experiences in maternal health. The videos humanized the intricacies of navigating maternal health in the District, empowering current and future mothers and all involved in the betterment of perinatal health.

To wrap up the summit, Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, director of DC Health, delivered remarks and discussed next steps for policymakers, healthcare providers, mothers and other stakeholders. In particular, Dr. Nesbitt spoke about three primary strategies for improving future perinatal health in the District:

1. Improving women’s health before pregnancy
2. Addressing barriers to prenatal care
3. Preventing preterm births

Upon the conclusion of the summit, attendees were encouraged to complete commitment cards. Many attendees pledged to continue to work toward improved maternal and baby health in the District while capitalizing on the summit’s momentum.

In addition to the day’s discussions, the Mayor Muriel Bowser Maternal and Infant Health Summit also featured:

A Facebook Live discussion
• Health fair
• Social media wall
• Photo booth
• Breastfeeding locations
• Child care
• Branded swag bags

Though only in infancy, Mayor Bowser hinted more Maternal and Infant Health Summits may be forthcoming.

Image from Facebook Live panel featuring Mayor Weaver and DC Dad, Kier Gaines.

Image of Mayor Karen Weaver from Flint, Michigan and DC Dad, Kier Gaines, participating in behind the scenes Facebook Live panel.