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.

Picture of Tamela Milan-Alexander, HealthConenct One's new Board chair against a orange background with purple highlights around photo frame

Introducing Tamela Milan-Alexander, our new Board Chair

Last week, Mairita Smiltars stepped down as chair of HealthConnect One’s Board after a successful run during a global pandemic and racial reckoning. HealthConnect One Executive Director, Dr. Twylla Dillion shared the following: “We’re grateful for the many years of support that our exiting Board Chair, Marita Smiltars has provided, most critically helping HC One to navigate through leadership changes. We are glad that she will continue to serve on the board as we welcome Tamela Milan-Alexander our new chair to assume her role.”

Tamela Milan-Alexander, MPPA, is the Westside Healthy Start Community Action Network Coordinator at Access Warren Health Center. Tamela has more than 20 years of experience in the MCH community working as a peer educator, developmental screener, and community health worker, as well as a Healthy Start case manager. Mrs. Milan-Alexander has collaborated with many organizations that fight to improve the lives of moms and babies.

“Along with our wonderful Executive Director, Dr. Twylla Dillion, and a committed board, I look forward to continuing to ensure the work that impacts the health and wellness of families in marginalized communities is sustained with programs that amplify the work that will change the lives of Community Health Workers and Doula’s connected to HealthConnect One,” said Tamela when asked about her hopes as Board Chair.

We are thrilled to welcome Tamela as our board chair! Read about the rest of the HealthConnect One Board here.

Protect Democracy for Moms, Babies and Families

Shirley Chilsom once said, “unless we start to fight and defeat the enemies in our own country, poverty, and racism, and make our talk of equality and opportunity ring true, we are exposed in the eyes of the world as hypocrites when we talk about making people free.”

All these years later, America is still combating poverty, racism, and we are still fighting for decency.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the insurrection that took place in our nation’s capital over the certification of our election results. Make no mistake, the world watched the chaos in the capital.

This assault on our democracy is sending the wrong message.  

We should be celebrating the election of Rev. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock for his historic win, becoming the first Black senator from Georgia. 

We should be congratulating US Senator-elect Jon Ossoff on his election. 

Both Warnock and Ossoff support the Affordable Care Act, which is critical to healthy births in the Black, Brown and Indigenous communities where HealthConnect One co-develops programs with community members and organizations. Both Warnock and Ossoff uphold women’s rights, particularly their pro-choice position aligns with our position on bodily autonomy at HealthConnect One. 

Despite the violence that took place in D.C., I encourage those of us who are intent on improving the lives and health of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities to be proud of what we can accomplish when we work collectively. We should be invigorated and bolder than ever before to work for what is just and right in a nation where freedom is considered a central tenet.


Dr. Twylla Dillion
Executive Director

HealthConnect One Fought For Maternal Health During Covid-19 Pandemic

Chicago: Now, more than ever, Black, Brown and Indigenous birthing families need support as COVID-19 and job loss disproportionately impact communities of color. To give voice to these challenges, HealthConnect One has fought to help these communities with briefings, working groups, and virtual training sessions. 

 “In this critical moment, pregnant women and babies are center stage, as their health outcomes are indicators of national, state, and community health,” said Dr. Dillion, HC One Executive Director. “We must ensure that the foundation of life, the first 1,000 days, is healthy. We are proud of all we have accomplished this year and look forward to doing even more in the year to come.”

2020 Year In Review Accomplishments

We Helped Train: 

  • 2,299 birth workers across the country, providing training including our community-based doula training and technical assistance for the African American Breastfeeding Network in Milwaukee, WI, and a birth doula training for SisterWeb in San Francisco, CA.
  • We held virtual training of trainers for community-based doula replication 
    • Milwaukee Health Department 
    • Baxter Community Center 
    • ChildServe

We Rang The Alarm

  • On the devastating effects of COVID-19 on maternal health in communities of color 

“Birthing Families Need Your Support” – read the report here.

“Maternal Health In Puerto Rico During COVID-19” – read the report here.

  • On the devastating effects of COVID-19 on maternal health in communities of color 
  • “Birthing Families Need Your Support” – read the report here.
  • “Maternal Health In Puerto Rico During COVID-19” – read the report here.

We Participated In Workgroups On: 

  • Rural Obstetrics Readiness 
  • Rapid Response Virtual Home Visiting 
  • Collaborative on Child Homelessness IL 
  • AMCHP Preterm Birth Prevention 

HealthConnect One is the national leader in advancing equitable, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting. HealthConnect One is committed to collaborating with Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities to ensure safe and healthy pregnancies and births, thriving babies and families, and successful early parenting and nutrition.

HealthConnect One Annual Report 2020

HealthConnect One is proud to release our annual report Birthing Hope During Turbulent Times. Despite the pandemic, HealthConnect One continues to partner with Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities to develop peer-to-peer programs that decrease maternal and infant mortality and increase bonding, breastfeeding, maternal support networks and early learning for infants.

 “In this critical moment, women, birthing people, and babies are center stage, as their health outcomes are indicators of national, state and community health,” said Dr. Dillion, HC One Executive Director. “We must ensure that the foundation of life, the first 1,000 days, is healthy.”

This year, we impacted 2,299 birth workers across the country, providing trainings like our community-based doula replication for the African American Breastfeeding Network in Milwaukee, WI, and a birth doula training for SisterWeb in San Francisco, CA.

Learn more about how we impacted moms, babies and families. Download our annual report here.

HealthConnect One Praises Selection Of Xavier Becerra For HHS Secretary


PRESS CONTACT: Kristian Ramos,

Washington D.C. –  President-elect Joe Biden has selected Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, as his nominee for secretary of health and human services, tapping a former congressman who would be the first Latino to run the department as it battles the coronavirus pandemic. 

In response to this appointment Twylla Dillon, Executive Director of HealthConnect One released the following statement:

“HealthConnect One praises the selection of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. Becerra has long been a champion of women’s reproductive rights. At a time in which maternal health is facing unparalleled challenges, we need strong leadership from HHS. Our communities are already facing record-high maternal mortality rates, COVID -19 is spreading our health care system to the brink. We look forward to working with President-elect Biden and his choice for HHS Secretary to help mothers build stronger, healthier communities.”

HealthConnect One is the national leader in advancing equitable, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting. Our 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.


This #GivingTuesday, make a donation to HealthConnect One in support of healthy pregnancies, births, and breastfeeding in Black, Brown, and Indigenous Communities

When you give to HealthConnect One we partner with Black, Brown and Indigenous communities to develop custom solutions for critical support during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.

HealthConnect One co-developed solutions impact communities by:

  • Protecting mothers/birthing people and babies from illness and death during and after pregnancy
  • Increasing breastfeeding rates
  • Reducing COVID-19 related isolation and misinformation
  • Providing support for postpartum depression
  • Working on securing sustainable and fair pay for community-centered birth workers

Every dollar counts. Your support helps create healthier communities !

  • $25 – $50 contributes to advocacy work
  • $100 – $500 supports communication tools for breastfeeding during COVID-19
  • $1,000-$2,500 pays for a birth equity advocacy webinar
  • $25,000 supports a community-based Breastfeeding Peer Counselor training
  • $100,000 supports training at 4 new Community-Based Doula programs

This year, GivingTuesday will be held on December 1, 2020. GivingTuesday encourages people to do good. Over the past seven years, it has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity. Make a donation in any amount today! We thank you in advance!

Black Women, The Backbone of Democracy

Dear Friends,

This election is a very American story – a deeply fractured nation showed up to exercise their right to vote. Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, who are also the most overlooked, drove change. Boots on the ground, people on the phone, and online urged communities to vote, and the results have been incredible. 62% of eligible voters cast their votes in this presidential election. This turnout was the largest since 1968, which was another period of racial and societal tension.

Our communities are experiencing a crisis within a crisis as generations of systemic racism have made us more vulnerable to the pandemic’s effects. The heightened racial tension playing out in the nation provides a constant reminder of the ever-present interpersonal racism, bias, and divisiveness. Amidst this crisis, we showed up. Our votes shifted the course of the election; the large Black communities in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit and the Indigenous and Latinx communities in Arizona made a significant impact on the result. Our lives matter, our voices matter, our votes matter, and our participation in government matters. 

The nation has lots of healing to do, and I hope that President-Elect Joe Biden supports the change we need in our communities and the country. As a Black Jamaican woman, a child of immigrants, and someone raised by a single mother, I am filled with pride to witness Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris take office. Her acknowledgment that Black women are often overlooked but are the “backbone of our democracy” cannot be understated and was echoed by the many people online thanking Black women for getting people to the polls. 

My sincere hope is that the appreciation of Black, Brown, and Indigenous votes is not the end. The work of organizations focused on racial justice, including birth justice and the racial wealth gap must be supported through funding and policy change. HealthConnect One is committed to continuing our work supporting birth justice, fair pay for birth workers, and collaboration with partners and legislators for an even more significant impact.


Dr. Twylla Dillion
Executive Director
HealthConnect One 

Photo courtesy of: Meena Harris via Twitter

Post Election: Supporting Black, Brown, & Indigenous Moms, Babies, & Families

Dear friends,
The sun came up this morning, the garbage truck came and honked because we forgot to take out the trash, my kids, husband, and I scrambled to get everyone where they needed to be. Like every other morning, we got to where we need to be, and our work continues.
We at HealthConnect One and other birth equity organizations have so much critical work to do. No matter the result of the many elections, including the presidential one, our communities will need us to step up our work to improve their residents’ lives.
We must continue to lift the conversation that birth equity is our first and most fundamental experience with racial equity. We must continue to elevate the voices of Black, Brown, and Indigenous women/birthing people in maternal-child health. We must continue to collaborate with communities to prepare community health workers and arrive at the solutions faster. We must continue to be responsive to the changing landscape at the county, state, and national levels.  We must continue to advocate for economic equity for the work done by community health workers, including community-based doulas and peer lactation counselors.
We need to learn from this electoral experience and carry those learnings with us in our work. HealthConnect One is committed to supporting our communities to have ongoing understanding and participation in the legislative process, including communicating with legislators on birth, reproductive, economic, and racial justice issues.
Finally, no matter the outcomes of this Election Day, HealthConnect One will continue to be undeterred in our work to support birth equity in communities that have been and continue to be impacted most deliberately and profoundly by systemic, structural, interpersonal, and internalized racism.


Dr. Twylla Dillion
Executive Director
HealthConnect One 

5 Voting Resources To Flex Your Voting Power

Dear friends, 

Elections are underway across the nation. The results of the elections will have a long-reaching impact on our nation’s healthcare systems and on the health of Black, Brown, and Indigenous families. 

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT-> Find out here where the Presidential candidates stand on the healthcare policies that impact maternal health and the welfare of birthing families. 

FIND YOUR POLLING LOCATION> Find answers to questions about your state here- such as polling locations, in-person registration, and other local questions.

VOTER ID-> Two-thirds of states expect you to provide identification to let you vote at the polls. Find out about your state’s voter ID laws here.

FIRST TIME VOTER? -> This video can help you prepare to vote, and here’s a handy checklist with everything you need to cast your vote. 

WHATS ON THE BALLOT? -> In addition to the Presidential candidates, there are various candidates and issues on the ballot that will impact how decisions are made for our birthing families. Find out more here.

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

The HealthConnect One Team