Innovation aims to reduce race-based health inequalities in pregnancy care

Gemma Poole, founder of The Essential Baby Company, is a registered midwife and award-winning college lecturer. 

The Essential Baby Company Logo
  • Resources and pregnancy’s support workshops
  • Collaborated with existing services and provision
  • Equity-Centered Training for Healthcare Professionals

Gemma joined cohort 6 of the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme in 2022 with her innovation ‘The Essential Baby Company’. 

Gemma is a lifelong advocate for vulnerable and underserved people, who has turned her frustration with ‘inadequate and exclusionary’ antenatal care into classes that support marginalised parents and training that equips her fellow birthing professionals to push for change. 

‘Our aim is to improve maternal and infant mortality rates for Black and brown skin people by improving the lack of representation within maternity services.’ 

The Essential Baby Company was developed to serve as a solution to the disconnect between a marginalised birthing community and health care, with a mission to reduce race-based health inequality through inclusive tools and resources which advocate for safe pregnancies and healthy babies for Black and Brown skin women and birthing parents, and to equip healthcare professionals with equity-driven training. 

Gemma Poole Introduces The Essential Baby Company.

Bringing accessibility and inclusivity to antenatal care in the UK

Through extensive research with Black and Brown skin women and birthing people who used maternity services within the last 12 months, the team were able to design the project which aims to implement a new framework to compliment an existing maternity care pathway and future maternity models such as continuity of care and digital maternity pathways. This includes a combination of inclusive antenatal education and place-based community asset workshops delivered within deprived areas of England to address the interchangeable health inequalities women and birthing people face. The team have collaborated with existing services, businesses, and organisations to create a pool of resources and tools that are representative, supportive, inclusive, co-produced by a marginalised community, culturally specific and available in different language and formats.  

According to MBBRACE*. black women remain 4 times as likely to die during pregnancy, birth and postpartum period and Asian women are twice as likely to die. 

The Essential Baby Company recognises that health inequalities do not have boundaries, they are often interchangeable and complex, but current antenatal education has been reported to be ‘not fit for purpose’ for Black and Brown skin people, and lack of representation and cultural inappropriate content were two of the of biggest barriers to accessing antenatal education. Research has reinforced the need for better understanding surrounding the determinants of co-morbidity factors (not genetic reasons) and a better way of approaching marginalised communities that remain underrepresented and underserved within the maternity sector is urgently needed.  

Antenatal education embedded within workshops, aims to prevent risk escalation, and promote early intervention to address issues such pre-term labour. This approach provides support throughout the perinatal period minimising over-medicalisation and increases knowledge of existing medical conditions to manage risk factors effectively and safely. 

‘Dream big and with the right support behind you, you can do anything!’ 

The NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme (NHS CEP) has taken Gemma’s initial concept to deliver an online antenatal education classes from her front room to believing she can make a system change to support the very customer base she originally identified.  

“The NHS CEP team have been supportive, friendly, and approachable, at times of need they have provided me with contacts and a platform to promote my project so those who could influence change within the NHS knew about my business and offered their support.

Gemma Poole, Midwife, Founder of the Essential Baby Company and NHS Clinical Entrepreneur.

The blended approach of the programme, allows Gemma to attend around work and family commitments, has helped her to explore the offering of subject matter expert sessions and has facilitated an extremely supportive and knowledgeable mentor relationship.

Just go for it! Nothing is impossible and you will never regret trying, even if the outcome is not what you expected. 

Additionally, the programme provides exposure to opportunities, and has formed partnerships with fellow NHS CEP businesses, services and organisations around the UK to produce her Village eco-system, a solution-focused framework for inclusive and holistic maternity care.  

What is next for the Essential Baby Company? 

The Essential Baby Company are exploring the production and co-design of worksheets and inclusive information, advice and guidance for toolkit and workshops with all stakeholders, partners and expert advisers, and the team will complete 3 pilots and evaluate the outcome.  

The team are working to expand the programme throughout the country in areas of high prevalence of Black and brown people including providing the programme and ‘My Village Toolkit’ to all. They are also building additional support such as an online and in-person private antenatal education course, training, a co-ordination service, and the Empowerment Academy.  

Get involved

Could you help the Essential Baby Company by sharing general feedback or issues you experience before, during or after pregnancy? Or could you share your ideas on what would make supporting women/birthing people easier for you at antenatal and postnatal stage?

The team are also looking to be linked in with community champions, public groups and events that focus on Black and brown people or provide inclusive services and collaboration opportunities.  

To read more about Gemma or to reach out around collaboration, please use the information below. 

* Reference MBRRACE Report : 


Published by Lucy Dentice

Deputy Programme Manager for the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme.