This year, because you believe in maternal and child health and support the work of HealthConnect One, we impacted 5,700 people across the nation through our Community- Based Doula Program and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor trainings.
Together we can improve maternal and infant outcomes, most importantly, reducing maternal and infant mortality rates. This means more birthing moms, individuals, and families in communities of color will get the gold-standard and quality support they need and, more importantly, deserve.
Everyone deserves a positive birth experience, and because you believe in our work, we are able to continue advocating for birth equity so that expectant parents have a positive experience of pregnancy, birth and the earliest moments of parenting.
Under the leadership of new Executive Director Brenda Blasingame and with your support, we will build on HealthConnect One’s legacy to see every baby, mother and family thrive in a healthy community.
With a focus on equity, we will strengthen and expand our work to support the first 1,000 days of life by:
- Engaging communities that experience marginalization because of race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, culture and/or language.
- Training individuals and organizations so parents have support during pregnancy, so families bond with their newborn, get support for breastfeeding and healthy food options, and seek pathways to high-quality childcare, and so children and caregivers have support for their mental health and well-being, under- stand early learning and the developing brain, and work to reduce stress in the home as much as possible.
- Changing the conversation around pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding in this country to focus on the root causes of health inequities.
Why the first 1,000 days? The first 1,000 days, from pregnancy through the first three years of every child’s life, presents a unique window of time and an opportunity to create the foundations for optimum health and development. Pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting in the first 1,000 days affects how young children’s brains develop, their response to stress, and how they form trusting relationships.
As many of you know, Rachel Abramson, HealthConnect One’s co-founder and current executive director, announced her decision to retire at the end of June 2018. There are no words to adequately express the extraordi- nary gifts that Rachel has provided to Health- Connect One throughout her 30-year tenure. Rachel started this organization to address the dismal breastfeeding rates in Cook County. With ever-present warmth, sincerity, and compassion, Rachel’s leadership grew the Chicago Breastfeeding Task Force into HealthConnect One, with a broad intention to impact organizations, communities, and Community Health Workers (CHWs) on a national (and international!) scale.
Rachel, I thank you for your leadership and for demonstrating to the Maternal and Child Health field that listening is an active verb and the key to effective community health programming. Your example has revolutionized the strengths-based approach to this work and has emboldened women to speak up for their health and for the self-determination of their peers. And lastly, thank you for the bold vision of HealthConnect One to fight for equity in maternal and child health so that every baby, mother, and family can thrive in a healthy community.
Mairita Smiltars, Board President
In Chicago 30 years ago, the mission was straightforward: Encourage mothers to breast- feed. What we discovered was that mothers felt disconnected, with no one to rely on, no one who spoke their language, and no one who knew where they were coming from. That’s where HealthConnect One’s impact began.
HealthConnect One holds space for tough conversations surrounding birth and health equity. We hold space for change, for creativity, for innovation. We engage honestly, broadly, unapologetically, and we invite into the conversation those who are often unheard.
This year, our National Action Summit, “Shared Voices for Equity in Birth and Breastfeeding,” brought together over 100 women — community health workers from all over the country, including Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, Arizona, Oregon and Puerto Rico — for 3 days. They were community-based doulas, breastfeeding peer counselors, doctors, nurses, academics, and home visitors dedicated to advocating for healthy moms and healthy babies.