HealthConnect One Annual Report 2021

We’re proud to release our 2021 Annual Report, Planting Seeds for Future Generations.

“We are like a community garden; we support birth workers to empower birthing people and co-create with other organizations. We ensure that the garden for Black, Brown and Indigenous communities is thriving in a healthy and safe environment for future generations.”

This year’s theme, Planting Seeds for Future Generations, has allowed us to take a moment to reflect on the seeds we have planted across the nation. For 35 years, HealthConnect One has trained community leaders, ensured that birth workers’ voices are lifted and heard, and created a national network of birth equity leaders.

This year we’ve been able to plant the following seeds:

  • Trained community-based doulas to foster thriving and sustainable communities
  • Served as a funding intermediary for community-led work through resource mobilization and community convening 
  • Remained a resource for parents and families during the pandemic through virtual training and meetings
  • Built relationships with other organizations & cultivated new skills by co-creating with our networks
  • Advocated & Fought for Fair Pay for Birth Workers with birth equity leaders across the country 

Learn more about how we impacted birthing families in 2021, download and share our annual report here.

On Behalf of Birthing Families


We are proud to join Families USA, Community Catalyst, The National Partnership on Women & Families, and Protect Our Care and over 200 national, state, and community organizations in thanking the House of Representatives for the momentous gains made in the Build Back Better Act, reinforcing the need to keep the package intact as it makes its way through the Senate, and urging swift passage onto President Biden’s desk.

We urge our partners and advocates to ask Congress to go BOLD and pass the Build Back Better package and demand change for birthing families across America.

Read the letter here.

Visit our take action center to ask your senators to pass the #BuildBackBetter Act!

#GivingTuesday2021

Mark your calendars for #GivingTuesday2021!

As we look forward to the future, babies, birthing people, and their families need our support now more than ever!

HealthConnect One is participating in #GivingTuesday2021 on November 30, 2021. GivingTuesday is a Global Day of Generosity that strives to build a world in which the power of generosity is at the heart of the society we make together, unlocking dignity, opportunity, and equity. We hope you mark this day on your calendar and use your generosity to help improve birth outcomes for Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

Our goal is to raise $30,000 this year for Giving Tuesday. These funds will propel our work forward and make it possible for us to create an equitable future for Black, Brown, and Indigenous babies and birthing families.

Your gift during #GivingTuesday funds crucial advocacy, training, technical assistance, research, and support for birth workers across the country on the front lines of the fight to achieve birth equity.

Build Back Better Passes the House!

Earlier this month, the Biden Administration made history by signing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act! The Bill, which will provide historic investment in our transportation, broadband, and infrastructure, is set to accelerate our economic recovery. While this is fantastic news, it’s time for Congress to rise to the occasion again and prove that they can still pass legislation that will make a real difference across this country. Working and middle-class families in America will benefit from the Build Back Better Act’s social policies that will make health care more affordable.

The Build Back Better Act, a historic legislation just passed the House of Representatives earlier today. This Bill will radically improve the lives of millions of Americans once it becomes law. The Bill includes landmark investments that will improve maternal and child health and advance equity, including critical provisions that:

→ Ensure new mothers have access to comprehensive health care services during the postpartum period by making 12-month postpartum coverage mandatory in Medicaid and CHIP.
→ Make historic investments to end the maternal health crisis by incorporating and providing funding for critical provisions of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act.
→ Address churn and prevent eligible children from becoming disenrolled from coverage by requiring 12-month continuous eligibility for children insured by Medicaid and CHIP.
→ Provide a new option that allows states to extend income eligibility for CHIP up to 300% FPL.
→ Create a new Maternal Health Home state option in Medicaid to improve care coordination for pregnant and postpartum mothers.
→ Make the CHIP program permanent.
→ Extend critical poverty reduction efforts by providing a one-year extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit and making it permanent.

We’re looking to Senate to go BOLD, pass this bill, and move it to the President’s desk. We urge advocates to call the U.S Senator Switchboard (202) 224-3121 and ask your Senators to say ‘YES’ to Build Back Better Act.

Visit our Take Action center for a detailed script for when you call your Senator!

For questions, please contact HealthConnect One’s Director of Advocacy, Zainab ‘Zee’ Sulaiman.

Undoing Racism to Improve Birth Outcomes in Rochester

Last week, HealthConnect One joined Finger Lakes Performing Provider System, Finger Lakes Community Health, and the Healthy Baby Network launched the Rochester Doula Hub. This timely collaboration will provide culturally reflective community-based doula support to improve Black birth outcomes in Rochester.

Health inequities have long been tied to racism, poverty, physical environment, and stress, all outcomes linked to racism. Recently published data links racism, specifically redlining practices, to higher preterm births in Rochester, NY. These policies, which were in effect until the 1960s, resulted in decades of community disinvestment and high poverty in inner-city neighborhoods while denying Rochester residents the ability to build intergenerational wealth through homeownership.

Researchers identified preterm births (less than 37 weeks) by zip code, demographic characteristics of individuals, including race, and community survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau on income, poverty, and educational attainment. 

Nearly 13% of preterm births occurred in zip-codes labeled “hazardous” compared to 7.55% in areas marked “best” or “still desirable.” Birthing people who resided in “hazardous” areas also had a higher risk for other maternal complications, such as pregnancy-related hypertension, neonatal complications, and neonatal intensive care unit admission.

HealthConnect One’s partnership to co-develop the Black Doula Collaborative comes off the heals of our community-based doula model’s astounding results for nearly three decades. The culturally reflective, community-rooted support provided by doulas trained through our model will improve birth outcomes in Rochester, especially for Black babies and birthing people experiencing racism and adverse effects. 

This week, HealthConnect One team members will engage with doulas from Rochester utilizing HealthConnect One’s proven “train the trainer” model. The program, which will be based at Healthy Baby Network and Finger Lakes Community Health, will hire, onboard, and train doulas, including 16 community-based training sessions. FLPPS will fund six full-time equivalent doulas, which will serve 250 Black and Brown women. The program will develop referral pathways with healthcare systems and federally qualified health centers to facilitate care.

Download the full one-pager here. For questions, please reach out to info@healthconnectone.org

Two black female friends with stroller, walking and chatting.

Take Action for Birthing Families

Congress will soon decide on a social infrastructure legislative package that could be transformative for birthing families, including critical Momnibus investments and establishing the first national paid family & medical leave insurance program!

Black Maternal Health

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 builds on existing maternal health legislation, like policies to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage, with 12 bills to comprehensively address every dimension of America’s maternal health crisis. 

Last month, crucial investments in Black maternal health from the Momnibus were included in the Build Back Better Act. HealthConnect One is thrilled to see maternal health equity prioritized in this package, however there is still work to do until these provisions, in their entirety, are passed.

As outlined in a report from the Century Foundation, these four investments from the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, out of many, will improve Black Maternal health should lawmakers pass the Build Back Better Act.

  • Build Back Better could save mothers’ lives by providing funding for postpartum Medicaid to a total of 1,170,000 uninsured new mothers over ten years
  • 92,000 nurses and perinatal nursing students would receive funding for loans, scholarships, and programmatic support over ten years.
  • 30,000 doulas would receive funding for loans, scholarships, and programmatic support over ten years.
  • 46,000 maternal mental health and substance abuse professionals would receive loans, scholarships, and programmatic support, over ten years.

It is imperative that congress prioritizes these maternal health investments that mothers, babies, and birthing families desperately need. 

Call your legislators to pass the Build Back Better Act with these investments! – Click Here

Call your Congressmembers’ offices! Congressional staffers are required to tally phone calls right away. You can leave their office a voicemail if no one answer’s the call.

Follow these steps:

  • Call the U.S. House of Representatives Switchboard: (202)-225-3121 or the (202) 224-3091 (TTY). Ask to be connected to your Senators or Representative.
  • You can find your Senators’ contact forms at senate.gov and your Representative’s contact form at house.gov/representatives.
  • You can find your Members’ phone numbers, Twitter handles, Facebook pages, and other contact information on Contacting Congress.

When you call, use this script:

Hi, my name is (NAME), and I’m from (CITY, STATE).

I am calling to urge you to vote to pass the Build Back Better Act. This legislation includes historic investments in maternal health by including ALL provisions from the Black Maternal Health #Momnibus and mandated permanent extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months.These investments will address system-level failures by providing policy solutions that will allow Black birthing people and their babies to thrive.

This issue is of particular importance to me because (briefly describe why this is important to you).

Thank you for your time and for your leadership in supporting working families across America. I hope I can count on you to prioritize the health of mothers, birthing people and their babes.

(Your name)

* [IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL OR EMAILING: please leave your full street address and zip code. This will ensure your call or email is tallied]

Tweet at your legislators and tell them the importance of these investment! – Click Here

  • It’s time for congress to pass ALL #Momnibus provisions in the #BuildBackBetter act. These investments will address system-level failures by providing policy solutions that will allow Black birthing people and their babies to thrive.
  • Community-based organizations like @HealthConnctOne and its partners are at the frontlines of the maternal health crisis by ensuring birthing families have the culturally-reflective support they need to have a positive birth experience. (1/2)
    The #Momnibus enables these organizations to directly serve the multifaceted needs of pregnant and postpartum people in their community. (2/2) 
  • Racial justice requires investments in maternal health. To rectify centuries of disenfranchisement, we need to continue demanding justice for moms and ensure that ALL of the #Momnibus provisions are prioritized in the Build Back Better legislative package. 
  • The evidence is clear — doula care is associated with positive outcomes for birthing families. Funding from the #BuildBackBetter act would provide increased access to doula services for Black families, for whom doula care is often out of reach.
  • The #Momnibus provisions in the #BuildBackBetter package will ensure that Black birthing people can experience joyful pregnancy and birth.
  • Black birthing people need the Biden adminsitration and leaders in congress to go bold and pass the #BuildBackBetter Act with ALL investments from the #Momnibus and the permanent extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months.

Follow @HealthConnectOne on Twitter and be sure to tag us in your posts!

We won’t stop working until all provisions are passed. It’s time to build on this momentum and continue working to eliminate maternal health disparities by passing the Build Back Better Act with all maternal health provisions included.

Paid Family Leave

In one of the most industrialized nations in the world, only 15 percent of all working people in the have access to paid leave through their employers. The Build Back Better Act social infrastructure package could change that. 

Sick family members, a new baby or child placement, an aging parent, are planned and sometimes sudden occurrences for everyday people across America. Working families deserve to know they do not have to sacrifice financial income or job security.  The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t guarantee paid leave of any kind. It’s time for our legislators to create a safety net that will allow working people to remain active parts of their families and the economy at the same time. 

Our leaders are negotiating the details and they need to hear your voice about what families need.

The paid leave plan in the Build Back Better package will:

  • Ensure the benefit is available to all of America’s families;
  • Provide paid time off (ideally 12 weeks);
  • Provide robust wage replacement; and
  • Cover the whole range of babies’ and families’ needs for time off.

Become an advocate and keep the pressure on our leaders to make sure the new paid leave program provision in the Build Back Better Act would reach all babies and families! call on Congress to finally pass paid leave for all working families. 

Take Action Today – Click Here

Contact Congress via a phone call or email and ask them to support the bill and it’s full recommendations.
(via Think Babies)

Use the script below:

  • Hello, my name is (xxx) and I am your constituent living in (state your city/town).
  • I’m calling today to urge your support the Build Back Better Act which will establishes a paid family and medical leave program that will meet the needs of working families across America
  • This paid family and medical leave program will give families the opportunity to stay connected with their family and remain in the work economy. Paid leave gives families the time they need to bond with and care for their infants and care for loved ones without sacrificing their financial security. 
  • This issue is of particular importance to me because (briefly describe why this is important to you).
  • Thank you for your time and for your leadership in supporting working families across America. 

It’s important that our elected officials hear from you about the life-saving relief that a comprehensive paid leave program can have on maternal and child health outcomes and overall well being of families.  

Our country cannot afford to wait to address the challenges facing Black and Brown birthing people, and failing to invest in these issues risks not only incurring painful economic and social costs, but lives across America.

Download our Factsheet: Breastfeeding Intention

HealthConnect One aims to increase breastfeeding intention, initiation, and duration at 6 weeks for between Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) and their families.Breastfeeding intention is an important predictor of breastfeeding initiation and duration as well as a measure of exclusive breastfeeding.

This fact sheet highlights the existing inequities between BIPOC families and breastfeeding ending with recommendations for centering breastfeeding promotion and education in maternal and child health.

Innovating Doula Program to Address Racial Disparities

Innovating Doula Program to Address Racial Health Disparities

Doulas play a crucial role in combating the discrimination, racism, and loss of autonomy that
Black and Brown birthing people experience due to historical disinvestment.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE // September 29, 2021

Through its System Transformation and Community Investment Program, Finger Lakes Performing Provider System (FLPPS) is partnering with Healthy Baby Network, HealthConnect One, and Finger Lakes Community Health on a two-year initiative to innovate Healthy Baby Network’s Black Doula Collaborative, which will improve the health and well-being of women, infants, and birthing families.

The program will identify and train individuals who are trusted members of the community to provide doula services and help improve: prenatal care, raise breastfeeding rates, decrease unnecessary medical interventions, increase positive birth experiences, and improve parenting skills.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Rochester and Finger Lakes region maternal mortality is 51% higher for black moms than for white moms. Infant mortality is 300% higher for black babies than for white babies, according to the CDC.

Utilizing HealthConnect One’s proven “train the trainer” model, the program based at Healthy Baby Network and Finger Lakes Community Health will hire, onboard, and train doulas, which includes 16 community-based training sessions. FLPPS will fund six full-time equivalent doulas, which will serve 250 Black and Brown women. The program will develop referral pathways with healthcare systems and federally qualified health centers to facilitate care.

“I’m thrilled that FLPPS is partnering with these reputable organizations across the region that have deep expertise in addressing disparities. This innovative Doula program will provide vital support to ensure patient-centered care and better outcomes for mothers and babies in the Finger Lakes region,” said Carol Tegas, Executive Director of FLPPS.

“HealthConnect One’s community-based doula reputation program has achieved astounding results for nearly three decades, and we are proud to co-develop the Black Doula Collaborative with our partners in Rochester. Through our decades of experience, we know how critical culturally reflective, community-rooted doula support is for improving outcomes for Black babies and birthing people,” said Dr. Twylla Dillion, Executive Director of HealthConnect One.” With the workforce development elements of this program, we will build new career pathways for women from under-resourced communities where the need for doula support is greatest. Legislatively, there is a lot of motion nationally and within NYS to develop sustainable funding for community-based doulas through Medicaid doula reimbursement. This project will provide additional evidence in support of community-rooted doula support.”

“Healthy Baby Network’s Board and Staff are proud to partner with HealthConnect One, Finger Lakes Community Health, and the Finger Lakes Performing Provider System to innovate our Black Doula Collaborative as a hub for training Black Women to be Doulas and continuing to expand their work with health providers to bring lifesaving care and support for vulnerable Black pregnant and parenting women and their families,” said Sherita Bullock, Executive Director of Healthy Baby Network. “THIS is how we reduce and work to eliminate preventable Black Maternal Mortality and Morbidity in Rochester, NYS, and beyond.”

“We are excited to be a part of this work with FLPPS and our regional partners. Doulas provide emotional and physical support to our pregnant Moms who can be vulnerable to problems in pregnancy and birth. This program will positively benefit so many women in our region and help to ensure healthy maternal outcomes,” said Mary Zelazny, CEO of Finger Lakes Community Health.

Who We Are:

Finger Lakes Performing Provider System (FLPPS) is a network of clinical and community-based organizations across a 13-county region who work together to improve the Medicaid healthcare delivery system and support high-risk individuals and populations.

Healthy Baby Network ensures that every parent in our community has the information and support needed to bring a healthy baby into a nurturing home. Healthy Baby Network has 25 years of experience focused on a community-centered approach to supporting Black and Brown families during the perinatal period.

HealthConnect One is a nationally recognized leader employing community-based approaches to provide customized birth worker coaching, training, technical assistance, and program development services to our partners in the field of maternal and child health to support under-resourced communities and families.

Finger Lakes Community Health is a federally qualified health center serving the Finger Lakes region, providing comprehensive healthcare including medical, dental, behavioral, and reproductive health services.

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Media Contact: Zainab Sulaiman, HealthConnect One Director of Communications & Advocacy
Tel: (202)440-1576 Email: zsulaiman@healthconnectone.org

Reflecting on National Breastfeeding Month: #NBM21 in Review

As National Breastfeeding Month comes to a close today, we reflect on the activities and learnings on promoting breastfeeding intention, initiation, and duration during the month of August 2021. From the first-ever National Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Breastfeeding Week to Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association’s Michigan Community-Based Doula Summit, we are inspired by the stories of resilience, support, and cultural preservation to strengthen breastfeeding across communities.

Our highlights from National Breastfeeding Month include:

  • The Chicago Regional Breastfeeding Taskforce Baby Shower celebrating World Breastfeeding Week on August 7th,
    where HealthConnect One provided baby supplies and information on COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy/lactation.
  • #FoodFri Twitter Chat on Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding + Food Health, led by Moms Rising on August 13th. View the full conversation here.
  • Completion of Breastfeeding Advocate Training with Cohort 1 The training, a major component of the First Food Equity Project supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will train close to 100 Black, Brown, and Indigenous individuals serving birthing communities of color. Learn more here.
Breastfeeding Advocate Training for Cohort 1
  • Op-Ed on Why We Need A Black Breastfeeding Week by LaBrisa Williams, the Executive Director of the Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative, a HealthConnect One community-based doula replication site. 
  • LacationLegislation Instagram Live on Ausgust 25th we kicked off #BlackBreastfeedingWeek with a conversation on the impact of legislation on lactation for Black birthing people with Tina Sherman of MomsRising.
  • Breastfeeding Engagement During the Pandemic Twitter Chat on August 26th we discussed Breastfeeding Engagement and Support During the Pandemic alongside our partnersBlack Mothers Breastfeeding Association, Chicago Regional Breastfeeding Taskforce, Reaching our Sisters Everywhere, and the Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project. Read the full conversation here.
  • Lactation Across Borders Roundtable Discussion to close out National Breastfeeding Month we held a roundtable discussion on “Lactation Across Borders: Breastfeeding and Lactation Culture and Practice within Immigrant Communities.” During thediscussion, panelists working with immigrant communities across America to strengthen their maternal and child health outcomes shared their insights on supporting breastfeeding within these communities. Replay will be avaiblae soon here.

Post image credit: Black and Brown Breastfeeding Week Denver Facebook Page

Further Reading

HealthConnect One Awarded NJ Department of Health Grant To Strengthen, Expand Community Doulas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE // August 26, 2021

Trenton, New Jersey – The New Jersey Department of Health today announced the award of a grant to HealthConnect One to develop a diverse community doula workforce to support women during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.

HealthConnect One will establish a Doula Learning Collaborative to increase the number of trained community doulas — professionals who provide culturally appropriate, social and emotional support to pregnant women throughout the prenatal period, labor and delivery, as well as the postpartum period. The Doula Learning Collaborative will also support doulas in engaging with multiple health systems and process Medicaid reimbursement claims for their services.

“Community doulas have the inherent local knowledge and understanding that enables them to provide culturally responsive care to our mothers during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “Doula care can lead to lower rates of maternal and infant health complications, fewer preterm births and low-birthweight infants, higher rates of breastfeeding, and so much more. Doulas amplify mothers’ voices and listen to their needs, ultimately improving birth outcomes for mothers and babies of color.”

The Doula Learning Collaborative is part of First Lady Tammy Murphy’s Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan released in January 2021. The goal of the plan is to reduce New Jersey’s maternal mortality by 50 percent over five years and eliminate racial disparities in birth outcomes. It is a culmination of more than a year of in-person and virtual meetings with more than 100 critical stakeholders including national public health experts, New Jersey state departments and agencies, health systems, physicians, doulas, community organizations, and mothers and families.

“Research demonstrates that support from a doula is associated with lower caesarian section rates, fewer obstetric interventions, fewer complications, and the improved health of mothers and babies after delivery,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

HealthConnect One, based in Chicago, IL., is a national leader in advancing birth equity and has a 35-year history of collaborating with communities to support under-resourced Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities and birthing families to achieve positive health outcomes.

Currently, there are approximately 79 doulas that were trained and certified through Department of Health pilot programs and another 150 to 200 private practice doulas working independently in the state.

The Department of Health, Division of Family Health Services Reproductive and Perinatal Health Services awarded the grant after a competitive request for proposals was issued in March. The review committee agreed the firm could successfully create a diverse community doula workforce by implementing and recruiting a diverse Advisory Board; provide training, clinical supervision, technical support, leadership development, and advocacy for doulas, and develop a plan for the Doula Learning Collaborative.

The organization’s contract for $450,000 is for one year with the possibility of continuation of funding for two additional years based on performance in prior years and availability of funds.

For more information on Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan, please visit https://nj.gov/governor/admin/fl/nurturenj.shtml

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Media Contact: Zainab Sulaiman, HealthConnect One Director of Communications & Advocacy
Tel: (202)440-1576 Email: zsulaiman@healthconnectone.org