Birthing Hope 2022 Awardee Announcements

HealthConnect One is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 Irving Harris Advocacy Award, Kay Matthews, and 2022 Senator Durbin Award, Comunidad Maternal en Utah! Our awardees were nominated based on their commitment to birthing people through education, advocacy, and support. Each awardee provides vital resources to their communities and HealthConnect One is proud to honor them at our upcoming Annual Virtual Fundraiser, Birthing Hope 2022 on June 23rd, 2022. 

As the founder of Shades of Blue Project, Kay Matthews and her team are on a mission to uplift all birthing individuals with the care, respect, and dignity they deserve – no matter their social status or birth outcome. Kay comments, “We focus on the birthing experience, and this is how we bridge the gaps by acknowledging everyone’s birth story matters.” Through education, advocacy, and respectful care, they are dedicated to helping birthing individuals of color whose lives are impacted by racial disparities that heighten their birthing challenges. Kay adds, “It is from my own personal experience of infant loss and postpartum depression, that I’ve recognized a critical diversity gap in mental health resources and emotional support for Black and minority birthing individuals which is what we are working to dismantle through our work and advocacy.” HealthConnect One is honored to host Irving Harris to present Kay Matthews with the 2022 Irving Harris Advocacy Award for her work in maternal health.  

Comunidad Materna en Utah (CMU) was established as a non-profit organization in the state of Utah in June 2017, as a necessary resource for expecting Hispanic mothers and their families. As an organization, they seek to advance access to prenatal care, promote physical and emotional well-being, and develop learning opportunities for low-income families or those in vulnerable situations. Founder Mayra A. Sanchez, an advocate for the empowerment of pregnant women of color, is an immigrant of Mexico and proud mother of 9 children. CMU has a vibrant team of labor/postpartum doulas and health workers in the community, which allows them to provide specialized support in pregnancy, childbirth/postpartum, and attend to the basic needs of families, all while serving them in their own language with cultural competence. They note “The growth of CMU gives us the vision of expanding services to other cities in the state. The effort and mutual support of government sectors, community organizations and members of the same are essential. [We hope] to reach the places in the state where support is needed.” HealthConnect One appreciates the essential work of CMU and will recognize them as awardees of the 2022 Senator Durbin Award during our annual Birthing Hope virtual fundraiser on June 23rd, 2022.  

Celebrating AAPI Month

Centering AAPI Voices in Breastfeeding Advocacy

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI), HealthConnect One is highlighting the impactful work of To-wen Tseng, who has dedicated her career to centering AAPI voices in her breastfeeding advocacy. To-wen is a mother, journalist, author, and activist. She has been a key voice for the AAPI community in the breastfeeding world, serving as a long-time Volunteer Blogger at San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition, and more recently, an Elected Director on the United States Breastfeeding Committee. She co-founded the API Breastfeeding Task Force in 2017 and then Asian American Native Hawaiian and Asian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Breastfeeding Week in 2021.  

In collaboration with HealthConnect One’s First Food Equity Project, To-wen and her team led a Baby Cafè at DeDe Diner. Their mission was to combat stigma, decrease inequities and normalize breast/chestfeeding in Los Angeles County’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities by improving education and support practices. To-wen shares that the “social stigma, coupled with lack of resources, have hindered Asian parents’ ability to successfully breastfeed. Data shows nearly 50% of Asian Americans in San Gabriel Valley, the home to the largest Asian population in Los Angeles County, are limited English proficient, and less than 6% of lactation professionals in Los Angeles County speak an Asian language. Additionally, prenatal medical visits offer little breastfeeding education using language or culture-appropriate materials.” It is important to recognize the unique cultural and linguistic needs of AAPI families, which their Baby Cafè hoped to do. To-wen shares that they simply could not have an “API Baby Cafè,” because API is a very diverse population. They decided to center the most under-served group and with their community partner, BreastfeedLA , chose the Filipino population. Dede means breastfeeding in Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines. 

To-wen wants to remind people that while we tend to group all the AANHPI people together, “it is actually a very diverse, or I might as well say very divided, group. A record 22 million API Americans trace their roots to more than East and Southeast Asian countries and the Indian subcontinent, each with unique histories, cultures, languages and other characteristics. In many cases, they disagree with one another. In some extreme cases, they even hate one another. Please keep that in mind and don’t assume things when you work with API families.”