Jodi Long is playing a long game.
The former “Today in Iowa” morning anchor, who spent 10 years on air at the Des Moines-based TV station WHO Channel 13, announced Sept. 23 that she was leaving the TV news industry to instead go on a mission to help other mothers.
Long is joining Des Moines-based stillbirth prevention organization Healthy Birth Day Inc. as health equity director on Oct. 10. There, Long will advocate for stillbirth prevention, address racial disparities that exist in birth outcomes, and lead efforts to expand conversations about health equity and stillbirth prevention in America.
The longtime on-air and off-screen maternal health advocate has served on the nationwide nonprofit organization’s Influencer Advisory Board since August 2021.
For Long, advocating for healthy pregnancies is personal.
‘It shows that this impacts anybody’
The mother of two, who was on maternity leave at the Des Moines-based station before her September departure, recently gave birth to her second child Jaira with her husband Ra Shaan Long. The couple also share a 2-year-old son Bishop.
The Emmy Award-nominee said both of her pregnancies were textbook but added that she was induced at 39 weeks due to slightly elevated blood pressure after delivering Jaira. Following delivery, Long was readmitted to the hospital with post-partum pre-eclampsia, a rare and severe post-birth condition involving high blood pressure.
According to the CDC, Black women are more than two times as likely to experience a stillbirth as white women. The CDC estimates that 23,500 babies are stillborn in the United States each year and 7,000 of those babies are Black, Long said.
Famed tennis star Serena Williams and Allyson Felix, the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history, who are both Black, have publicly detailed near-death events during their pregnancies.
Long credited both women for speaking out about their struggles. She argued that any woman can have issues in their pregnancies if famous athletes, with access to the best doctors and health care teams, do.
“It shows that this impacts anybody,” Long said. “You have somebody who could’ve afforded the best doctor, the best care team, have problems.”
At Healthy Birth Day Inc., Long will work on Count the Kicks, the charity’s stillbirth prevention campaign for expectant parents, that allows mobile app users to monitor a baby’s movements by counting the number of kicks daily at the start of the third trimester.
Using time, counting, and patterns, the free mobile app helps parents stay updated on the health progress of their babies.
Long said that while she has loved telling the stories of central Iowans, she is excited to help tell expectant parents what to expect during pregnancy in her next chapter.
“To me, having an impact was doing a story that changed the way lawmakers look at something or having a exclusive story with a member of the community,” Long said. “I’m excited to have an impact in a different way and that is to help one mom to speak up and save her baby ― that will have an impact forever.”
On the Healthy Birth Day Inc. website, the organization said that stillbirth rates for Black families in Iowa dropped almost 40% in the first five years of its Count the Kicks campaign.
In a farewell note to TV news on Facebook, the mom-of-two said, “the story of saving babies is the story I want to tell right now” but noted that she would miss broadcasting.
‘It’s OK to have another dream’
The Ankeny High School alum, who became one of the school’s first Black homecoming queens before graduating in 2009, has been a barrier-breaker in the metro area for more than a decade.
After graduation at University of Northwestern ― St. Paul, then-known as Northwestern College, Long joined WHO-13 in January 2013. She rose from the ranks of multimedia journalist and reporter at the local NBC station to become “Today in Iowa” morning anchor in 2019.
Long said she will miss the TV news industry but had gotten better sleep during maternity leave with her two children than during her 10 years at Channel 13.
Working in broadcast news was a fulfilling journey, she said, which made this on-her-own-terms transition easier for her off-set.
“It’s really cool to leave on my own terms,” Long added. “It’s like when Michael Jordan left on his own time, not that I’m like Michael Jordan by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not like I’m past my expiration date.”
During her last day on air during the 6 a.m. hour, Long said goodbye to WHO Channel 13 viewers. After reading a live three-minute-long prepared speech, co-hosts joined the popular morning anchor and greeted her with a bouquet of flowers. Then, the co-hosts clinked their glasses full of Champagne to a longtime friend who was writing the first chapter of a new story in life.
A better sleep schedule, away from the early morning shift sitting at the anchor desk and closer to home with Bishop and Jaira, means more time for Jodi Long to dream. Her next one begins on Oct. 10.
“I felt like I had accomplished my dream and it’s OK to have another dream,” Long said.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Des Moines WHO 13 anchor leaves for new job at Healthy Birth Day