Birth Equity Leadership Academy

Women speaking in front of BELA birth equity leadership academy banner

HealthConnect One launched the Birth Equity Leadership Academy, BELA, in 2017.  Our goal was to develop authentic leadership in underserved and underrepresented communities of color typically marginalized when it comes to maternal and child health concerns. 

BELA is the first national network of its kind focused on birth equity and centering community voices.  BELA has four components: 

  1. Foster community organizing with an equity lens for birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.
  2. Explore pathways to financial stability and sustainability for doulas, peer to peer lactation specialists and CHWs by uniting with key allies.
  3. Create a platform for grassroots leadership and leadership development.
  4. Provide community project seed grants to community leaders for projects that expand doula work and raise awareness of the importance of peer-to-peer support for pregnant women in local communities.

We held workshops, retreats, and webinars, beginning with a cohort of 120 women in communities across the U.S.

BELA faculty members are from 16 states, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico and BELA Leaders are from 27 states and Puerto Rico. For the grant component, we awarded more than $80,000 to grassroots projects, details here.

 Another key role for BELA leaders across the country has been as advocates and experts in providing perinatal health support.

Download our lessons learned from the first 18 months of the BELA project, as well as our building a funding strategy report.

BELA News & Resources

Reports highlight community-based doulas’ role vs. maternal health crisis

One new report out of Washington, D.C. highlights that racism is the driving force of disparities in maternal mortality and doulas and midwives are key to the solution. Another from a Native women-led organization in New Mexico analyzes the living-wage pay scale of, and recommends a greater role for, community-based doulas.  Taken together, both reports

BELA Retreat Photo Gallery

Thank you to everyone who attended the Birth Equity Leadership Academy Retreat in New Orleans. We hope you learned a lot from our facilitators and each other. We look forward to continue to support the important birth equity work you are doing in your communities.

Building for Birth Equity: Lessons from the Field

HealthConnect One (HC One) launched the Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA) in the spring of 2017, to develop effective and authentic leadership on maternal and child health within communities that are often marginalized, and to amplify the voices of these leaders through a coordinated national network. BELA is the first national network focused on birth

ROBE: Teaching Fathers To Support Breastfeeding In Their Families

  Thank you to Wesley Bugg, for taking the time this Father’s Day to share about the organization he founded, called Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere (ROBE). What is the goal of ROBE? The goal of Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere is to provide men with culturally appropriate information and resources that allow them to more fully