OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Maternal mortality continues to rise at alarming rates both in the state and across the country.

The bad pregnancy outcomes for Black women, including maternal mortality, are often much higher, compared to women from other racial or ethnic groups.

But, changing that trajectory could have a lasting impact on the Black community.

Enter Elisa Joseph.

Elisa Joseph says sharing her personal passions for breastfeeding and health literacy with a co-worker sowed a seed that grew into a full-time passion.

Elisa Joseph pictured in an earlier photo with her sons

“She was like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve never had anybody care so much about my health. Specifically my health’. And I started to cry,” said Joseph, who is also a registered nurse, a Dress for Success graduate and a mother of two boys.

The Maternal Society was born – with a goal of making sure every mother receives high-quality care during their pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum journey, regardless of their socioeconomic background, according to Joseph.

“We are blessed to expand our reach and services to better serve expectant mothers in our community. Every mother deserves quality unbiased care during this special journey, and we are dedicated to making that a reality for as many families as possible,” she said in previous statement to KFOR.

But, her vision for a community-based health center also grew out of a problem that hit close to home.

“Moms who look like me is what put the fire up under me because we were dying,” she added.

And, she’s right – according to state statistics.

Black women account for 10% of births statewide, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, but make up nearly a quarter of all maternal deaths.

It’s an alarming statistic for Ward 7 councilwoman Nikki Nice.

“These numbers have increased within the last ten years instead of decreased [and] it’s truly alarming for our communities, especially for our Northeast part of our community,” she said in an interview Friday with the station.

Nice has called attention to the Black maternal health crisis for years, saying it’s easy to see the devastating effects of bad maternal health outcomes on Black families, as a whole.

“[As a result] we now we have young people without mothers to raise their children…we have to know that our Black mamas matter all across the country, and they should matter especially within Oklahoma City,” she continued.

Elisa said the new location along N Martin Luther King Avenue serves the mission of the organization, perfectly.

“We’re right in front of a bus stop. We’re right across the street from an elementary school, right down the street from a high school, right down the street from the library … Ward seven was the perfect place. I could not have prayed for a better location,” she said adding that one of her main goals is to raise health literacy in the community for everyone in the community.

“Of course, it’s [all about] maternal health and breastfeeding, but everyone here matters,” she added.

The nurse-led initiative is open to all expectant mothers and they’re already taking appointments, even for those currently without insurance.

For more information about The Maternal Society and its services, please visit www.thematernalsociety.org or contact Elisa Joseph at contact@thematernalsociety.org.