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

Apoyando a Familias | Supporting Families During COVID-19 and Emergencies

    “Supporting Families During COVID-19 and Emergencies” led by Lourdes Santaballa, Executive Director, Alimentación Segura Infantil (ASI) in Puerto Rico (PR) presented their approach to supporting families during emergencies and this public health pandemic. “Apoyando a Familias Durante COVID-19 y Emergencias” presentado por Lourdes Santaballa, Directora Ejecutiva de, Alimentación Segura Infantil (ASI) en Puerto

Increase power, improve health outcomes, Amani says

  Please click below to view the webinar video from May 28.     “We cannot talk about health disparities without talking about power, and how lack of access to power over the course of one’s life impacts the ability to be healthy,” Jamarah Amani, executive director of Southern Birth Justice, told more than 100

This is what a leader looks like: U.S. Sen. Durbin’s CHW of the Year Video

Play Video   This pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on African American and Latinx communities, leaving many mothers and babies of color vulnerable…. More than ever, mothers and babies in minority communities need support, and the faculty and leadership of the Birth Equity Leadership Academy have stepped up. Thank you, BELA! –Senator Richard J.

Congratulations, Community Health Worker(s) of the Year

Play Video    Back in February, we were full speed ahead planning our annual Every Baby Our Baby bash. That was a different world and we’re not looking back. Not being able to be together this year is just the start of what’s different this year. We can still recognize our leaders and the