Your Vote Matters To Birthing Families

Dear friends,

This year has been a challenging experience for us all, as fear of COVID-19 infection, homeschooling, social isolation and economic upheaval changed our lives.

On November 3, we have an opportunity to decide who will lead our nation as we navigate a pandemic. It’s not just a presidential election, there are various candidates and issues on the ballot in November that will impact how decisions are made for our birthing families.

Here’s how you can take action! 

1. Start by making sure you are registered to vote.

2. If you are not yet registered, there is still time! Register online before October 18.

3. You can vote by mail by October 15. You can find out what options are available for voting in your state.

4. Are you a first time voter? Here’s a handy checklist with everything you need to cast your vote.

5. Speak to your family and friends to make sure they have all the information they need to make their voice heard at the ballot!

Your voice and your vote matter! Thank you for lending your voice and advocacy in support of birthing families!

The HealthConnect One Team

New Issue Brief: Maternal Health In Puerto Rico During COVID-19

Perhaps the biggest structural challenge posed by COVID-19 is the strain that the pandemic is placing on healthcare systems.

The human costs, however, are much more significant – recent data has shown that Black, Indigenous, Black Latinx and Latinx (BIPOC) populations and poorer people have higher rates of infection and are more likely to die from COVID-19.

For birthing families in Puerto Rico this could mean less attention in an already over-burdened system, a heightened susceptibility to exposure and infection, and an increase in adverse maternal health outcomes. Any public health response to COVID-19 must include a focus on birth equity work and center the needs of birthing families that are facing the greatest hardship during this pandemic.

Key components of this brief include:

  • Disparities in outcomes pre Covid-19
  • Birthing during a pandemic
  • Recommendations

For more information on this topic, please send questions or comments to Khadija Gurnah, Director of Policy and Advocacy at

More: We also partnered with Alimentación Segura Infantil (ASI) in Puerto Rico (PR) to present related webinars in English and Spanish. You can view the webinars here. 

Download Maternal Health in Puerto Rico During COVID-19

Please complete the form above to download our new report. Downloadable versions are available in English and Spanish. 

Image credit: Karla Rosas / IG: @karlinche_

Irving Harris Advocacy Award: U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14)

“The disparity in maternal health is] a crisis that has demanded action for decades and is now getting the attention it deserves,” –U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14)  quoted by the Wilson Center


The Irving Harris Legacy Award is given to individuals and organizations making an impact on maternal health and birth equity. Though our organization serves communities across the U.S., we did not have to look far from our Chicago home base to find a leader who well deserves this recognition.

This year, Congresswoman Underwood, D- Ill, led 62 members of the House of Representatives in a bipartisan letter urging the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that the U.S. is taking steps to understand the unique risks and complications of COVID-19 in pregnant women.

In March, alongside Senator Kamala Harris, D-Cal, and her Black Maternal Health Caucus co-chair Congresswoman Alma Adams, D-NC, Underwood helped introduce the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020. The Act will fill gaps in existing legislation to comprehensively address every dimension of the black maternal health crisis in the nation.

The Black Maternal Health Caucus is one of the largest bipartisan caucuses in Congress, with more than 100 members. It is organized around the goals of elevating the Black maternal health crisis within Congress and advancing policy solutions to improve maternal health outcomes and end disparities.

“It’s both alarming and unacceptable that maternal mortality rates continue to rise in the United States, and the situation is even worse for Black women, who are three to four times more likely to die. This issue affects too many women and families and will take a comprehensive approach to end disparities,” said Congresswoman Underwood.

“I would like to thank HealthConnect One for honoring me with the Irving Harris Legacy Award, a humbling reminder of the critical urgency of the work address of us to address our nation’s maternal health crisis,” Rep. Underwood shared. “I am grateful for HealthConnect One’s partnership with the Black Maternal Health Caucus that I co-chair, working with us to advance the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act and other policies to improve outcomes and save lives.”

HealthConnect One is grateful to Congresswoman Underwood, a true champion, for her leadership in improving the lives of moms, birthing families, and babies.


day 2 promo of EBOB event to intro CHW AwardEvery Baby Our Baby 2020

We’re also grateful to sponsors of our virtual Every Baby Our Baby this year: Gold sponsors the Irving Harris Foundation and Perigee Fund; Silver sponsor, Navistar, and Copper sponsors, Mairita Smiltars, Gordon Mayer Communications, and Graceful Fusion Birth Doula Trainings.

Our work to support and train community-based doulas, peer counselors and other community health workers continues. We appreciate you for being here. If you are able to support this work at any level, you can contribute here.

Thank you! Support our work


BLM Banner

Message of Support for Black Communities Against Racism


HealthConnect One stands in solidarity with Black people against racism in all its forms.

We are angry and saddened by the continuing injustices that Black people experience, all of which affect our public health. We will continue to work alongside Black communities, families, and advocates to fight racism and to uplift their health and well-being, now and in the future. – Jeretha McKinley, HC One Interim E.D.

We want to also provide Black moms and their families resources to other organizations providing support to the Black community during this difficult time:

Resource List

Where to donate to help George Floyd’s family

Official GoFund Me Page for George Floyd

George Floyd Protest Donations List

Mental health resources for the Black community

Therapy for Black Girls

Sista Afya Community Wellness

Loveland Foundations

Crisis Text Line

8 Mental Health Resources

Boris Henson Foundation

Organizations to support and donate to:

Black Lives Matter


Community Bail funds

Chicago Community Bail Fund

Directory of community bail funds

Support for small businesses

Small business relief fund for businesses – Chicago

Volunteer Opportunity – Rebuilding Southside businesses

Support for small businesses on South and West sides of Chicago

Anti – racism booklist for children / adults

Books to learn about anti-racism

Anti-racism for kids 101

Free meals for children in Chicago list

Chicago Food Bank

List of food pantries

Food program on South and West side of Chicago

We will be updating this page as new resources become available. If you have additional resources local or national supporting Black communities please email


Call your Senator today: Tell them to say YES to funding for home visiting

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill that would provide $3 trillion to help and support our families, communities, and businesses in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes a very important provision for home visiting: an additional $100 million in emergency funding that can be used for the care of birthing families, such as through community-based doula care.

Call your Senators today and let them know you want them to vote YES on the COVID-19 relief bill!

A phone call from you is one of the best ways to let your Senators know what their constituents are feeling about issues, and right now we have an important opportunity to make sure that doula care receives the funding it needs!

You can call today by following the steps below!

You can find the phone number for your Senators at this link:

You can also call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask them to connect you to the office of your Senator:

When you call:

1. Let them know you are a constituent.

2. Say that you are calling to ask your Senator to protect and support birthing families as part of their COVID-19 response

3. Let them know that you would like them to vote YES on the COVID-19 bill that will provide $100 million in additional funds for home visiting, which will include the following activities:

  • Training home visitors on virtual home visits and emergency preparedness and response planning for families
  • Providing technology to families to facilitate home visits
  • Providing emergency supplies to families, such as diapers, formula, non-perishable food, water, hand soap, and hand sanitizer
  • Providing prepaid debit cards to families to help them meet emergency needs

4. Thank them for their time and support of our families and communities

When you call your Senator’s office – we would love to know how the call went. Email us and update us on how it went at:

Thank you for your support and advocacy of birthing families!

The HealthConnect One team

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Birthing Families Need Your Support – Stories from Across the U.S.

As COVID-19 strains our healthcare infrastructure, pregnant women are facing severe isolation at a time where familial and community support is critical in birth outcomes. Moms and babies of color, particularly in Black and Indigenous families, are vulnerable to adverse birth outcomes due to generations of disinvestment in the health of communities of color. Now, more than ever, birthing families need support – regardless of immigration status.

Over the past two months, we asked doulas, peer counselors and other community health workers what was happening in their communities, and now we have compiled them in the attached report. These stories highlight the extreme problems faced by birthing communities during this pandemic. You will read how families are:

  • Experiencing food insecurity, housing insecurity, job loss and having problems accessing formula and diapers.
  • Fearful of the possibility that mothers may be forced to give birth without a partner or the doulas they made birthing plans with.
  • Lacking or experiencing limited access to pre and postnatal care.
  • Afraid to seek services if they are immigrants, particularly if they are undocumented.

We’re glad to be able to share this just ahead of Mother’s Day. In this story collection you will hear voices from Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Puerto Rico and Texas. We hope you will share this storybook widely, including with elected officials, to help them in their policy decisions.

This publication is available in English and Spanish. 

Download Birthing Families Need Your Support Storybook

HealthConnect One’s Statement on Historic Stimulus Bill


March 26, 2020

 HealthConnect One’s Statement on Historic COVID-19 relief package

 We commend the Senate for passing a historic COVID-19 relief package – $2 trillion aimed at helping Americans, hospitals and businesses deal with COVID-19.

HealthConnect One welcomes this investment in our nation, in particular the provisions that have vulnerable communities in mind. However, we encourage all leaders who will oversee stimulus funding spending to keep in mind the birthing families who are facing great hardship in these uncertain times.

 As COVID-19 strains our healthcare infrastructure, pregnant women are facing severe isolation at a time where familial and community support is critical in birth outcomes. Our nation’s communities of color, particularly Black mothers, need extra support at this time when they already are experiencing some of the most adverse birth outcomes in the world.

We call on administrators and legislators to remember birthing families in their COVID-19 planning. We ask that they protect doula care – mothers need to know they will be able to rely on the doulas they’ve asked to help at their births, for example by including accommodations such as videoconferencing into a hospital for doula care.

 We stand with birthing families, with doulas, community health workers and peer counselors who counsel and advocate for mothers, babies and families: Our safety and security and the welfare of our nation demand resources for our communities.

Doulas are not visitors; birthing moms need support

Recently, CNN reported that a “New York Hospital system is barring visitors, including partners, during childbirth due to coronavirus.” Tikvah Wadley, HC One’s Lead Doula, reflected on this recent news restricting doulas, partners and other loved ones in the delivery room.

This is a stressful time for the world and not to mention pregnant moms. COVID-19 concerns can increase mom’s risk of premature labor which can send her to the hospital.

But wait- there’s worse news! She’s is unable to have a family member or a doula to accompany her. This can add to a mother’s stress level, which may already be high – especially for women of color who we already know suffer higher levels of mortality and morbidity (as we’ve discussed in our recent Community Based Doula and the Medicalization of Birth brief).

Doulas’ benefits include the following:

  • Decreased anxiety
  • Increased confidence
  • Boosted self-esteem
  • Improved relaxation
  • Comfort and reassurance

According to the World Health Organization, “All pregnant women, including those with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections, have the right to high-quality care before, during and after childbirth.”

A safe and positive childbirth experience includes:

  • Being treated with respect and dignity
  • Having a companion of choice present during delivery
  • Clear communication by maternity staff
  • Appropriate pain relief strategies
  • Mobility in labor where possible, and birth position of choice

When you don’t have a doula this robs the family of the support they need and not to mention this is World Doula Week.

This was a hard decision for the hospital to make and this is also a hard result for so many families. They are implementing doula from afar by using smartphones and computers.

This is better than nothing in a moment of crisis, but I hope hospitals will weigh the importance of support and bring this experiment to a close ASAP. In the meantime my heart goes out to these families because we don’t want their joy to be replaced with fear.

2 women with a stroller in front of the US Capitol

Statement: Promote Perinatal Health, Support Community Health Workers

March 23, 2020

For Immediate Release

For more information, contact:

Gordon Mayer, 312-307-0133 or Diana Pando, 312-498-4067

Promote Perinatal Health, Support Community Health Workers

A message of support for community health workers and a call for the nation to invest in their support during the COVID-19 pandemic is the policy position of HealthConnect One, the national leader in advancing equitable, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.

“We have a message from community health workers who counsel and advocate for mothers, babies and the families and villages that support them in the nation’s communities of color: Our safety and security and the welfare of our nation demand resources for our communities,” said Jere McKinley, Interim Executive Director.

“We also have a message for community health workers, doulas, lactation experts and other peer counselors: We are here for you,” McKinley said. Noting that community health workers are considered as critical infrastructure workers, she named the following policy positions:

Invest in families with young children: HealthConnect One stands with allies, including ZERO TO THREE, and other organizations in supporting investments in policies that work to protect vulnerable populations. Zero to Three has identified $53.8 billion in resources that must be targeted toward families with young children to protect them at this time. See list here

Protect doula care: Doulas are not “visitors.” With nearly 4 million babies born each year, and at a time when the healthcare system will be stretched like never before, mothers need to know they will be able to rely on the doulas they’ve asked to help at their births. This may include accommodations such as videoconferencing into a hospital if needed, but medical professionals must recognize the essential role support workers play. Doulas are recognized by Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, AWHONN, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ACOG as essential personnel and part of the maternity care team. See AWHONN’s Position on Doulas with Patients During COVID-19

Preserve support for breastfeeding and first foods: Although it is too soon to be certain, evidence so far suggests mothers with COVID-19 may not transmit the virus via breast milk. Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses.  The World Health Organization states that women with COVID-19 can breastfeed if they wish to do so as long as they practice respiratory hygiene during feeding, wearing a mask where available, wash hands before and after touching the baby and routinely clean and disinfect surfaces they have touched With its partner agency US Breastfeeding Committee and ACOG, HealthConnect One believes breastfeeding saves lives. USBC, infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies, including COVID-19; ACOG Novel Coronavirus 2019.

HealthConnect One also stands with the National WIC Association in supporting proposes of $500 million in funding for WIC to ensure that the program can serve additional participants as the nation prepares for an economic downturn. This keeps breastfeeding peer counselors available to continue to provide support to most vulnerable families during this time.  Press Release: National WIC Association Applauds Early Steps by Congress to Address COVID-19 Crisis

Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture continues to seek to roll back food stamps. Although a court has stopped the move, the administration can step back in order to provide support for working people by dropping this demand.

Put people first: Economic stimulus should be targeted toward those who need support most. The coronavirus economy relies on working people – cashiers and nurse assistants, garbage truck drivers and package delivery people. But proposed legislation provides more support for businesses and corporations than for laid-off workers such as those whose unemployment insurance may only cover a small percentage of their lost income, gig workers, and families struggling to pay for housing or to keep food on the table. With Center for American Progress, HealthConnect One believes the Senate Stimulus Proposal in Response to Coronavirus Fails to Meet the Moment.

Ensure immigrants can get care: HealthConnect One’s position is that immigrants are our families, our neighbors, and the members of our community who are on the frontline – working to help our country through the pandemic. Congress must ensure that we protect everyone, regardless of immigration status, as America’s Voice outlines. How Immigrant Workers Are Getting Us Through The Pandemic

More information and a running list of resources and support documents are available online at


About HealthConnect One: the national leader in advancing equitable, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting, HealthConnect One’s vision is to see every baby, mother, and family thrive in a healthy community. We work to achieve this vision through an equity focused approach supporting the first 1000 days for birthing families.

Since 1986, across more than 50 communities in 20 states, HealthConnect One has worked with maternal and child health organizations, social services providers, hospitals, birth workers, grassroots organizers and FQHCs to design peer-to- peer support programs which increase breastfeeding rates, strengthen parent-child bonding, expand support for mothers and families, reduce C-section rates and achieve better birth outcomes while generating local jobs and leveraging resources.


Covid-19 Response & Resources

Resource List updated 4-22-2020

Dear HealthConnect One Community,

We want to connect with all of our community-based doulas, CHW’s and partner organizations to make sure you stay safe during this difficult time.

HealthConnect One is monitoring and following the recommendations of U.S. Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and Prevention and the Chicago Public Health Department. We will update this page as needed with resources and responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

First, please take care of yourself and others! To prevent spread of COVID-19, the HealthConnect One team are working remotely, not traveling and practicing social distancing.  Please contact HealthConnect One staff using our individual cell phones or email.

Here are maternal health recommendations from the World Health Organization:

“Infected mothers who are breastfeeding or practicing skin-to-skin should wear a medical mask, perform careful hand hygiene, and clean and disinfect all surfaces. Infected mothers should still be provided with breastfeeding support. If complications prevent the infected parent from breastfeeding, they should be encouraged and supported to express milk for the infant for someone else to feed to the baby or to maintain milk supply. There should be no promotion of breastmilk substitutes (formula) or pacifiers.”

“Mothers and infants should be enabled to remain together and practice skin-to-skin contact, kangaroo mother care and to remain together and to practice rooming-in throughout the day and night, especially immediately after birth during establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected, probable, or confirmed COVID-19.”The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has also released the following statement regarding doulas and COVID-19:

“We support doulas as partners in care and acknowledge their ability to provide physical, emotional, and partner support to women. AWHONN opposes hospital policies that restrict the presence of a doula in the inpatient setting during an infectious disease outbreak.”

Below are resource links to organization providing updates and recommendations that might during this difficult time:

For birth workers and families


Recursos en Español


Other agencies on the ground (list in formation)


For human service agencies/nonprofits


City of Chicago updates 


If you have additional resources for individuals and organizations supporting moms and their families please email  These resources and responses are being collected on our website at

Lastly, if you or a loved one is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, call ahead before visiting your doctor. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.


HealthConnect One Staff