lessons from the field funding strategy

Building for Birth Equity: Lessons from the Field

HealthConnect One (HC One) launched the Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA) in the spring of 2017, to develop effective and authentic leadership on maternal and child health within communities that are often marginalized, and to amplify the voices of these leaders through a coordinated national network.

BELA is the first national network focused on birth equity.

After approximately 18 months of implementation, we have identified six key lessons learned:

  1. Community and connection break the isolation of individual birth workers
  2. Modeling, support and mentorship impact how individuals work with families and community
  3. Seed grants paired with mentorship launch innovative, expansive ideas
  4. Developing leadership in communities means supporting both professional and personal growth
  5. Focusing on equity requires a significant time investment
  6. Time, capacity and process are crucial elements of success


For details, please download the full brief here:

LESSONS FROM THE FIELD:
BUILDING A NATIONAL BIRTH EQUITY NETWORK

A vital part of BELA is the community projects initiative, which provides mini grants and technical support in order to increase capacity for serving vulnerable and marginalized communities around maternal and child health.

HealthConnect One is currently supporting community demonstration projects from BELA leaders across the country in the form of $80,000 in mini grants. The overarching goals of these mini grants are to foster collaboration, share learning, and support new or current work in underserved communities and communities of color.

For a summary of lessons learned in launching this mini grant funding strategy, please download the full brief here:

LESSONS FROM THE FIELD:
BUILDING A COMMUNITY ROOTED SMALL PROJECTS FUNDING STRATEGY

Pure CHW Awesomeness in South Carolina

by Amber Pendergraph, Community-Based Doula with BirthMatters

Talk about Pure Awesomeness!

I recently had the honor of being grandfathered into a Community Health Worker (CHW) course. The course was followed by a certification exam to become a certified community health worker for South Carolina! The training I attended was facilitated by Julie Smithwick. I thoroughly enjoyed her teaching style and strategies.

A CHW is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community in which they serve. A CHW works directly with a member of the community as a liaison. They work to improve patient outcomes, increase access to healthcare, and address social determinants by bridging the gap between healthcare organizations and their communities to combat the ethnic and racial disparities in healthcare.

I am very passionate about the work that I do within my community. I have been in my career as a Community-Based Doula with BirthMatters for 8+ years. BirthMatters replicates the HealthConnect One model. This model is so amazing because you meet the individuals where they are. This community-based model that I follow as a doula believes we, the community members, have the solutions to these complex health disparities. It is very empowering.

Although I have been working within my community for many years, I had a lot of takeaways from the training. I learned so much and I am sure I will utilize the information to enhance my skills as a Community-Based Doula. There were two things that really spoke to me from this training:

  • First was the importance of cultural competence, which means to be respectful and responsive to all health beliefs and practices. This was a part of the HealthConnect One training and it’s nice to revisit this essential component.
  • The second is the need for health equity, which means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be healthier!

Because of this course, in my role as a community health worker doula, I will strive to practice these core competencies. I will work with my community to remove obstacles such as poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to good jobs and fair pay. I now feel more than ever that I am equipped to help members of my community by sharing resources and connecting with other organizations within the community I serve.

Moms and babies in Michigan receive the gold-standard of care through Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association’s community-based doula program ~ via SF Bay View

Read – Moms and babies in Michigan receive the gold-standard of care through Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association’s community-based doula program

“Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA) in Detroit, Mich., has successfully received national accreditation through HealthConnect One’s (HC One) Community-Based Doula Accreditation Program. BMBFA underwent a rigorous process in which the HealthConnect One Accreditation Team reviewed the organization’s existing Community-Based Doula Program to ensure high-quality implementation.

“Community-based doulas play an important role in helping decrease maternal and infant mortality rates and increase breastfeeding rates. These women are trained to provide peer support to other women in their communities throughout pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.

“BMBFA’s accreditation from HealthConnect One comes at a time when maternal and infant mortality is skyrocketing in the African-American community due to racial disparities in the healthcare system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women is three to four times higher than those of white women.” This is impacting the health of African-American women at an alarming rate, causing a maternal health epidemic. The accreditation means that BMBFA is providing Detroit mothers with the highest quality care.”

by Kiddada Green, published by the San Francisco Bay View, a National Black Newspaper, on May 16, 2019

Philanthropy Can Make a Difference in Helping Black and Brown Mothers Survive Childbirth

Read – Philanthropy Can Make a Difference in Helping Black and Brown Mothers Survive Childbirth

“When we started our work supporting mothers to assure they had healthy births, we were often asked, What’s a doula? Now most people know a doula is a trained professional who provides extended, intensive peer-to-peer support to mothers and families throughout pregnancy, during labor and birth, and into the early postpartum period.

“Even with this greater understanding, we are still a long way from achieving equity in making sure all women have access to care. It is shameful that the United States has the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality of any developed country. These appalling statistics are due in part to the disproportionate number of women of color, particularly black women, who experience poor maternal health outcomes.

“To improve these outcomes, we need greater investments in maternal and child health from philanthropy and the government. Policy makers, public-health officials, and philanthropists need to understand that for our nation as a whole to be healthy and to thrive, we need to ensure that every baby, mother, and family has access to support for healthy pregnancies, births, and childhood development.

“Every day, we hear stories of black and Latina mothers and babies who die or experience near-fatal complications during childbirth. More often than not, these mothers tell us they experience blatant disrespect and disregard from medical staff. To add to the health detriments, they are typically discouraged from breastfeeding their children, even though breastfeeding has been shown to boost infants’ immune systems, protect them against allergies, and provide critical skin-to-skin contact.

“Increasingly, as public figures like Serena Williams and Beyoncé have spoken out about their own harrowing experiences with pregnancy and childbirth, more people have become aware of the diminished maternal-health outcomes mothers of color are more likely to experience.

“Black mothers are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. And black babies are more than twice as likely to die during their first year of life than white babies . . . ”

Published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, April 2019

by Toni Hill from the Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project (NEMS) and Tikvah Wadley
from HealthConnect One

Supporting My Community as a CLC

by Ambar Rivera

I don’t know when exactly I saw the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to take the CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) certification. What I do remember is that I didn’t apply right away. Probably very busy, as usual. I set it up for later.

Then, at the almost very last minute, I was posting on my Facebook profile asking for testimonials from people whom I had helped in their breastfeeding journey. The response was so humbling. I got so many, and from people I didn’t even know I had helped. I had simply answered their questions, provided them with information, and to me, it was minimal, but it was definitely crucial for them. At that moment, I knew I HAD to take the course. I wasn’t even aware of the impact I was already having in my community. There was the woman who was nursing right after a C-section, the mother nursing her toddler all throughout her pregnancy, the mom with Raynaud syndrome, the one who worked full-time and benefited from my own experience exclusively breastfeeding and working full-time away from home, and many, many more. Again, thank you!

I applied, waited to hear results, and this I remember clearly…. I GOT IT!! I was sitting in the parking lot waiting to go pick up some mail and then, the e-mail came! YES!! I will never forget that excitement.

I felt like I would now be more and better equipped to help those families in my community on their breastfeeding journeys. I have always believed and stand by the notion that breastfeeding is a choice parents make, but when parents decide to breastfeed, I want to make sure that they get all the information and support possible, starting from providing prenatal education to assisting them once they have their baby.

I particularly enjoyed that the training was based on very recent scientific evidence and how knowledgeable and accessible the faculty was. It was an experience I truly enjoyed and will cherish for a long time.

I am so thankful for HealthConnect One and the Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA) for making this dream a reality. I can now continue serving my beloved Puerto Rico.

Breastfeeding Peer Advocate LaTonia Clark

“I’ve learned a lot in regards to breastfeeding,” says SGA Family Services’ LaTonia Clark about her participation in HealthConnect One’s Breastfeeding Advocate Training. She appreciates that the training was interactive.

“The class… it’s gonna help us out as we work with new prenatal mothers. …They’re gonna get a lot of understanding for child development, and infant and maternal wellbeing.”

Thank you, LaTonia, for your support and kind words – and even more importantly, for the work you do with new parents every day.


Check out our next Breastfeeding Advocate Training:

Chicago, April 24-26, 2019

Breastfeeding Peer Advocate Michelle Neumann

Michelle Neumann, who serves moms with children two years old and under, recently took HealthConnect One’s Breastfeeding Advocate Training with SGA Family Services.

“I learned a lot about breastfeeding in a different way than I’m used to,” she says. “I learned a lot about the basics and fundamentals of breastfeeding . . . Miss Helen and Miss Tikvah are great resources. Even their personal stories help me with the parents that I serve.”

She goes on: “I did take a course that was very in-depth and detailed, very intense, but it was just so much information and so overwhelming that it didn’t give me the knowledge that I needed to just be basic and to answer specific questions.”

And now? “If anyone asks me questions about breastfeeding, I’m on it … If I see one of my friends are pregnant, I automatically, ‘Ohmygod, are you gonna breastfeed? Are you interested in breastfeeding? If you have any questions, let me know…'”

Breastfeeding advocates like Michelle are why we love to facilitate trainings. Thank you, Michelle, for the support and the inspiration!


Check out our next Breastfeeding Advocate Training:

Chicago, April 24-26, 2019

Breastfeeding in L.A.

Photo by Mu-huan Chiang

My name is To-wen Tseng. I am an independent journalist based in Los Angeles, California.

My commitment to birth equity began five years ago when I returned to my previous newsroom after giving birth to my first child. I got a rude awakening when my previous employer refused to provide breastfeeding accommodations and harassed me for pumping at work. That was when I realized that I didn’t want to choose between my career and my baby. Before that, I never knew that breastfeeding was so important to me.

And I realized many mothers in my community might have experienced the same barriers I experienced.

At that time, I wrote for one of the largest Chinese-language newspapers in North America. I hoped no mother would have to go through what I went through, so I quit my job and sued the company for sexual discrimination.

During that period of time, the newspaper published two discriminatory articles. One was titled “Breastfeeding photos embarrass Chinese-American to death” and described breastfeeding in public and sharing breastfeeding photos on social media as “disturbing” and “disgusting.” The other one was titled “Nursing room shouldn’t be required” and indicated that it’s unnecessary and useless for employers to provide mothers space for pumping.

The two articles angered many nursing moms in my local Chinese-American community. Hundreds of mothers wrote to the newspaper to protest. A friend of mine and I wanted to organize a nurse-in to demand an apology from the newspaper, but we couldn’t recruit enough Chinese-American mothers who were comfortable about breastfeeding in public.

The nurse-in did not happen. We then wanted to start a photo voice project to show that breastfeeding photos are beautiful instead of “disturbing and disgusting,” but we once again faced multiple challenges: It’s hard to recruit models and put the money together for a professional photographer.

The photo voice project didn’t happen, either. However, my case was settled, and I started to volunteer for local breastfeeding organizations. Last year, I gathered a group of like-minded individuals and founded the Asian Breastfeeding Task Force of Greater Los Angeles. I also became a leader with HealthConnect One’s Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA). I see this as a great opportunity to make that photo voice project happen — I can finally recruit models with the Asian Breastfeeding Task Force and hire a photographer with BELA Community Project funding. I submitted the application and was selected.

Now I’m working with my team at the task force to put the project together. Thanks to HealthConnect One and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, after five years, the photo voice project is finally happening!

Read more by To-Wen Tseng at:

And I’d rather be breastfeeding.
One mother’s thoughts on family friendly policy, gender equality at workplace, among other things.

Moms and Babies in Michigan Receive the Gold-Standard of Care Through BMBFA’s Community-Based Doula Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts:
Diana Pando, HC One
Communications Coordinator
312.498.4067
dpando@healthconnectone.org

Kiddada Green, BMBFA
Founding Executive Director
313.400.1215
KiddadaG@BMBFA.org

Moms and Babies in Michigan Receive the Gold-Standard of Care Through Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association’s Community-Based Doula Program

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA) in Detroit, MI has successfully received national accreditation through HealthConnect One’s (HC One) Community-Based Doula Accreditation Program. BMBFA underwent a rigorous process in which the HealthConnect One Accreditation Team reviewed the organization’s existing Community-Based Doula Program to ensure high-quality implementation. Community-based doulas play an important role in helping decrease maternal and infant mortality rates and increase breastfeeding rates. These women are trained to provide peer support to other women in their communities throughout pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting.

BMBFA’s accreditation from HealthConnect One comes at a time when maternal and infant mortality is skyrocketing in the African-American community due to racial disparities in the healthcare system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women is three to four times higher than those of white women.” This is impacting the health of African-American women at an alarming rate and has created a maternal health epidemic. The accreditation means that BMBFA is providing Detroit mothers the highest quality care.

“The accreditation gives us a boost towards creating a sustainable program with the ability to build a labor market for community-based doulas. We continue to positively impact our community, providing respectable service and honorable care to Detroit families,” said Kiddada Green, BMBFA Founding Executive Director. “We understand the level of intimacy involved in pregnancy and birth and we are honored each and every time that a family allows us join in their birth experience.”

BMBFA’s Community-Based Doula Home Visiting Program has assisted in more than one hundred births. Their data from 2015 to 2017 demonstrates the importance of their program in African-American communities. The program boasts 1100+ prenatal and postpartum encounters, 100% breastfeeding initiation rate, 100% regular prenatal care, 99% healthy birth weight, 99% full-term babies and 0 infant deaths.

“I believe that any services offered in the community should be dedicated to the whole family, not just the individual. My Community-Based Doula from Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association not only assisted me, but she also supported my partner, my mother and even my sisters during my birth experience,” said Cherry Tolbert, Community-Based Doula program participant.

The transformative effect of doulas in communities has been spotlighted in a federally funded study in 2014. The study found that 87 percent of community-based doula clients were breastfeeding at six weeks, compared with 61 percent of a similar sample; 72 percent were still at it when their babies were three months old, compared with 48 percent of the broader sample.

HC One’s Community-Based Doula Accreditation Program (CBDAP) is designed to help organizations implement a high-quality Community-Based Doula program. “The goal of accreditation is to build greater fidelity to HC One’s evidence-based community-based doula model; therefore, improving quality of service and outcomes for program participants,” said Tikvah Wadley, HC One Program Manager. HC One’s first accreditation was Open Arms Perinatal Services in Washington State with the goal to provide mothers with the quality care they deserve.

This unique, innovative program model works because it provides extended, intensive support to families throughout pregnancy, during labor and childbirth, and in the early months of parenting in communities that face high risks of negative birth and developmental outcomes. Recently, HC One’s program model was profiled in the 2018 Home Visiting Yearbook. The publication compiles early childhood home visiting key data and presents a comprehensive picture available at the national and state levels.

Upon accreditation with HC One, BMBFA’s Community-Based Doula program is recognized publicly as setting the standards for high-quality doula care. Accredited organizations are positioned to attract the attention of funding sources which are committed to high-quality implementation of Community-Based Doula Programs nationwide, and BMBFA will gain additional exposure as a leader in their field through training and collaborative opportunities with HC One.

The Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association Community-Based Doula program is generously funded by the following foundations: W.K. Kellogg Foundation, March of Dimes Michigan, The Jewish Fund and Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

# # #

About Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association

BMBFA is focused on reducing racial inequities in breastfeeding support for black families. Since 2007, BMBFA carries out its mission by way of direct service, training/education & advocacy. For more information, visit http://blackmothersbreastfeeding.org/

About HealthConnect One

HealthConnect One®  (HC One) is the national leader in advancing respectful, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting. Organizations can contact HC One about their highly successful approach, replicating their program, or to collaborate in other ways to address birth equity. For more information, visit www.healthconnectone.org.

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The Growth of Licensure in Health Adjacent Fields Reduces Access to Care

by Jaimie Cavanaugh

In 2011, the Surgeon General released the Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. The report highlights the health benefits associated with breastfeeding and recognizes that community support is necessary to increase breastfeeding rates. In response, Kimarie Bugg and Mary Nicholson Jackson founded Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (“ROSE”) with the goal of offering community-based breastfeeding support to communities of color.

Kimarie and Mary have both worked as breastfeeding counselors for three decades and are pioneers in their field. In fact, they helped develop the curriculum that is taught to Women, Infant and Children (“WIC”) Peer Counselors. Peer Counselors are women who have breastfed who are then trained to provide education and emotional support to their peers.

The Peer Counselor program has positively impacted breastfeeding outcomes around the country. Receiving support from empathetic peers makes breastfeeding less daunting. New moms are more receptive to support from a community member—someone who talks like them and shares common cultural beliefs—than from a stranger at a hospital.

Photo by Institute for Justice

Based on the success of the WIC Peer Counselor program, ROSE established a similar program. Women who have successfully breasted for at least six months can complete a training to become Community Transformers. Peer Counselors and Community Transformers are often so inspired by their initial training that they go on to become Certified Lactation Counselors (“CLCs”) or complete other advanced breastfeeding trainings. Thus, not only are breastfeeding rates increasing, but these programs are providing a new path to employment for many women.

But all of these benefits may be thwarted by efforts to license lactation consultants. For example, Georgia enacted a lactation consultant license so strict that only International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (“IBCLCs”) are eligible to apply for a license. In 2013, there were over 800 active CLCs in Georgia as opposed to around 335 active IBCLCs. If Georgia’s licensing law takes effect hundreds of CLCs will lose their jobs. And as you might imagine, IBCLCs are concentrated in urban and affluent areas, leaving many rural and minority communities without breastfeeding support.

The lactation consultant license includes an exception for volunteers and government employees. Those individuals can continue providing breastfeeding support without a license. So a Community Transformer can work for free, but if she receives payment for her work, she faces fines of up to $500 per incident. Likewise, a WIC Peer Counselor can work in the WIC office, but she can no longer offer in-home support for payment.

Photo by Institute for Justice

As a result, I have personally heard from several CLCs who are apologetic that they charge modest rates for in-home visits. They truly care about helping their community members, but they have their own families to provide for, too. I tell each of these women not to apologize or make excuses for why they should be paid. They deserve to be compensated for the services they offer! In fact, it appears that the only people who stand to benefit from Georgia’s lactation consultant license are IBCLCs who will have a monopoly on the lactation care industry.

Because Georgia’s law would force hundreds of women out of work, Mary and ROSE have partnered with the Institute for Justice to sue Georgia to stop the lactation consultant license from taking effect. But a victory in one case will not solve the greater problem.

Thanks to the mania for credentials, new occupational licenses keep popping up—especially in health-care adjacent fields. For example, at least 12 states have created licenses for art therapists. Proponents of licensure argue that licensure will increase access to care. But as is the case with lactation consultants in Georgia, licensure generally creates barriers to entry and decreases the availability of services. Maybe the answer to increasing access to health care is less government intervention, not more.

Jaimie Cavanaugh is an attorney in the Minnesota office for the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm. The Institute for Justice seeks to preserve the right of all Americans to work in the profession of their choosing, free from irrational government interference. To find out more, visit ij.org

Photo by Institute for Justice