HealthConnect One’s Executive Director Announces Plans to Retire


RoiAnn Phillips
Communications Director
312-878-7017 Office
708-466-2650 Mobile

HealthConnect One’s Executive Director Announces Plans to Retire

CHICAGO, IL – The Executive Director of HealthConnect One, Rachel Abramson, has announced her plan to retire on July 1st, 2018 after thirty years. Under her leadership, HealthConnect One has grown from an all-volunteer community organization raising breastfeeding rates and lowering infant mortality in Chicago to a national leader for birth equity, known for advancing respectful, community-based support during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.

“It feels like the right time for me personally to make a change,” says Rachel Abramson, “and it feels like the right time for HC One. Over the past year, we have accomplished deep work to build a leaderful organization on every level, and I believe we’ve reached a point where HC One can really soar. I think that our amazing team and a new Executive Director will bring us to the next level of exciting development and sustainability.”

HealthConnect One (HC One) is known widely for its Community-Based Doula Program Model, which was named as a best practice by the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) last year. Community-based doulas are women trained to provide peer support to other women in their communities during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting. The transformative effect these doulas have was detailed in a federally funded study in 2014, which found that 87 percent of community-based doula clients were breastfeeding at six weeks, compared with 61 percent of a similar sample; and 72 percent were still at it when their babies were three months old, compared with 48 percent of the broader sample.

Because HC One takes an iterative approach, building lessons-learned into each new venture, their work now extends far beyond this one program model. They are facilitators, mentors, organizers and advocates for birth equity across the nation.

“HealthConnect One has always been a true partner with women, families and communities,” reflects Diana N. Derige, DrPH, who is now the National Director of Health Initiatives for Urban Strategies, but who first connected with HC One while she served as Program Officer for the W.K.Kellogg Foundation. “Its model of community engagement comes from a deep understanding and respect for women and a fundamental belief in a woman’s ability to nurture, teach and lead. Their work has created healthier and stronger families with a model that is complicated and multi-faceted with demonstrated outcomes in maternal and child health, community organizing, and advocacy; and, in the simplest terms is built on love.”

Over the next year, HC One’s Board of Directors will conduct a national search for a new Executive Director, under the leadership of Board President Mairita Smiltars.

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HealthConnect One® transforms how babies are born and cared for in their first months of life. Understanding that community members are the best experts on their families and neighborhoods, HealthConnect One takes a collaborative approach to each program and initiative, partnering with people of color and low-income communities across the country to ensure support for parents and babies in every part of their lives. For more information, visit

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