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:
- Foster community organizing with an equity lens for birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.
- Explore pathways to financial stability and sustainability for doulas, peer to peer lactation specialists and CHWs by uniting with key allies.
- Create a platform for grassroots leadership and leadership development.
- 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.