For Immediate Release

Jan. 23, 2024


John Lyon
Strategic Communications Manager


LITTLE ROCK ― Arkansas should expand access to doula services to improve maternal and infant health outcomes in the state, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement Health Policy Board said Tuesday.

Doulas are non-clinical caregivers trained in childbirth who provide educational, physical, emotional, and other supports to pregnant or recently pregnant women. The ACHI board’s statement reads:

“The ACHI Health Policy Board supports strategies, including financing, that will increase access to and use of trained and certified birthing companions such as doulas to provide emotional and educational support to parents as they navigate the birthing journey and improve outcomes for mothers and babies.”

The board issued the statement on Maternal Health Awareness Day, an annual observance that seeks to raise awareness of the nation’s maternal mortality crisis. The crisis is especially severe in Arkansas, which has the highest maternal mortality rate and the third-highest infant mortality rate in the nation. Multiple studies have shown that women who receive support from doulas during and after pregnancy are less likely to experience negative outcomes.

“The maternal mortality statistics are the canary in the coal mine indicating serious inadequacies in the supports Arkansas mothers receive in the birthing journey,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “There are many threats along that journey, and doulas can help mitigate some of those risks to achieve better outcomes. We need to use every tool to promote the successful outcomes our families deserve and we all desire.”

Policy options for expanding and supporting the use of doulas in Arkansas include providing Medicaid coverage for doula services and establishing infrastructure and standards for training and certifying doulas.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia currently provide reimbursement for doula services in their Medicaid programs, and an additional eight states are in the process of implementing doula reimbursement. Arkansas Medicaid does not cover doula services. There is no standardized training requirement for doulas, but organizations such as DONA (Doulas of North America) International and the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association typically require caregivers to complete a certain number of training hours and attend a certain number of births to qualify for certification.

More information about doulas, and other resources related to maternal and infant health, are available on ACHI’s website at

ACHI is a nonpartisan, independent health policy center that serves as a catalyst for improving the health of all Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy, and collaborative program development.

The ACHI Health Policy Board is an independent, self-perpetuating board that guides ACHI’s involvement in and positions on specific policy matters. The statements in this release represents the collective observations and opinions of the ACHI Health Policy Board and should not be attributed to any individual board member in their personal or professional capacity.