Birthing Hope 2022 Awardee Announcements

HealthConnect One is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 Irving Harris Advocacy Award, Kay Matthews, and 2022 Senator Durbin Award, Comunidad Maternal en Utah! Our awardees were nominated based on their commitment to birthing people through education, advocacy, and support. Each awardee provides vital resources to their communities and HealthConnect One is proud to honor them at our upcoming Annual Virtual Fundraiser, Birthing Hope 2022 on June 23rd, 2022. 

As the founder of Shades of Blue Project, Kay Matthews and her team are on a mission to uplift all birthing individuals with the care, respect, and dignity they deserve – no matter their social status or birth outcome. Kay comments, “We focus on the birthing experience, and this is how we bridge the gaps by acknowledging everyone’s birth story matters.” Through education, advocacy, and respectful care, they are dedicated to helping birthing individuals of color whose lives are impacted by racial disparities that heighten their birthing challenges. Kay adds, “It is from my own personal experience of infant loss and postpartum depression, that I’ve recognized a critical diversity gap in mental health resources and emotional support for Black and minority birthing individuals which is what we are working to dismantle through our work and advocacy.” HealthConnect One is honored to host Irving Harris to present Kay Matthews with the 2022 Irving Harris Advocacy Award for her work in maternal health.  

Comunidad Materna en Utah (CMU) was established as a non-profit organization in the state of Utah in June 2017, as a necessary resource for expecting Hispanic mothers and their families. As an organization, they seek to advance access to prenatal care, promote physical and emotional well-being, and develop learning opportunities for low-income families or those in vulnerable situations. Founder Mayra A. Sanchez, an advocate for the empowerment of pregnant women of color, is an immigrant of Mexico and proud mother of 9 children. CMU has a vibrant team of labor/postpartum doulas and health workers in the community, which allows them to provide specialized support in pregnancy, childbirth/postpartum, and attend to the basic needs of families, all while serving them in their own language with cultural competence. They note “The growth of CMU gives us the vision of expanding services to other cities in the state. The effort and mutual support of government sectors, community organizations and members of the same are essential. [We hope] to reach the places in the state where support is needed.” HealthConnect One appreciates the essential work of CMU and will recognize them as awardees of the 2022 Senator Durbin Award during our annual Birthing Hope virtual fundraiser on June 23rd, 2022.  

Background contains a side image of the U.S. Capitol, with a Green Overlay with Text saying: "Dear Congress, we need permanent maternal health aid"

Congress, We Need Permanent Maternal Health Aid

Our country’s maternal health crisis is an active policy choice – one that enables entirely preventable deaths of our nation’s mamas, birthing people, and infants. Lawmakers need to include measures tackling maternal health disparities in the upcoming reconciliation package. Earlier this week, HealthConnect One joined 200+ groups and organizations pressing congress to make maternal health aid permanent in a letter to congressional leaders.

The letter provides specific recommendations that will ensure coverage for biting people, build out maternal health services that center racial equity, and result in investment in community-based efforts. The recommendations are as follows:

  • Congress should close the Medicaid coverage gap, guaranteeing people in all states have access to affordable coverage and to the full range of health care benefits, including necessary and preventive health care services. Closing the coverage gap is critical not only for better maternal health but also to achieve broader health equity.
  • Congress should advance the policies included in the Momnibus, making needed investments in maternal care. The provisions address deep inequities for pregnant people of color; specifically their access to mental health services, a culturally competent perinatal workforce, and prevention services.
  • Congress should prioritize investments that direct much-needed resources to community-based partners that are working on the front lines to address the racial inequities of maternal health through culturally congruent, place-based caregiving.

Community-led efforts in collaboration with adequate funding and appropriate legislation will reverse the rates of maternal and infant mortality for Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. Alongside other organizations, we urge Congress to include these critical provisions in the next legislative package, a move that will advance reproductive justice and improve health equity for birthing families across America..

Advocacy: Breaking it Down

Before our team hopped on a plane for Power of Community Day in Washington, DC earlier this month, we asked Advocacy Consultant Anne Warden for a few tips to share with advocates visiting legislative staff on Capitol Hill or reaching out to legislators at home.

Here’s what she said.

  • The average congressional district has 700K residents. Stand out by speaking up!
  • Google! Before contacting your legislator, look them up and learn something about them.
  • The best advocacy messages are simple, well researched and heartfelt.
  • Check the maps. What other communities do your legislators represent?
  • When it comes to advocacy, be a polite, but squeaky wheel. If you don’t hear back from your legislator, try them again.
  • Make it personal with legislators. If you’ve seen them before, say so. If you’re personally connected to the issue, say so.
  • If you had a good experience with your legislator, thank them on social media.
  • If your legislator is responsive, send a thank you note.


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