Celebrating AAPI Month

Centering AAPI Voices in Breastfeeding Advocacy

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI), HealthConnect One is highlighting the impactful work of To-wen Tseng, who has dedicated her career to centering AAPI voices in her breastfeeding advocacy. To-wen is a mother, journalist, author, and activist. She has been a key voice for the AAPI community in the breastfeeding world, serving as a long-time Volunteer Blogger at San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition, and more recently, an Elected Director on the United States Breastfeeding Committee. She co-founded the API Breastfeeding Task Force in 2017 and then Asian American Native Hawaiian and Asian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Breastfeeding Week in 2021.  

In collaboration with HealthConnect One’s First Food Equity Project, To-wen and her team led a Baby Cafè at DeDe Diner. Their mission was to combat stigma, decrease inequities and normalize breast/chestfeeding in Los Angeles County’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities by improving education and support practices. To-wen shares that the “social stigma, coupled with lack of resources, have hindered Asian parents’ ability to successfully breastfeed. Data shows nearly 50% of Asian Americans in San Gabriel Valley, the home to the largest Asian population in Los Angeles County, are limited English proficient, and less than 6% of lactation professionals in Los Angeles County speak an Asian language. Additionally, prenatal medical visits offer little breastfeeding education using language or culture-appropriate materials.” It is important to recognize the unique cultural and linguistic needs of AAPI families, which their Baby Cafè hoped to do. To-wen shares that they simply could not have an “API Baby Cafè,” because API is a very diverse population. They decided to center the most under-served group and with their community partner, BreastfeedLA , chose the Filipino population. Dede means breastfeeding in Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines. 

To-wen wants to remind people that while we tend to group all the AANHPI people together, “it is actually a very diverse, or I might as well say very divided, group. A record 22 million API Americans trace their roots to more than East and Southeast Asian countries and the Indian subcontinent, each with unique histories, cultures, languages and other characteristics. In many cases, they disagree with one another. In some extreme cases, they even hate one another. Please keep that in mind and don’t assume things when you work with API families.”  

Image with we're hiring at the top and our two open positions listed at the bottom

Join the HealthConnect One Team!

Our team is growing and we are hiring for two new positions! We are seeking individuals with passion/and or experience working on birth/reproductive justice or issues related to racial justice or other complex issues in a social justice context.

Communications & Digital Advocacy Manager

Position: Communications and Digital Advocacy Manager
Reports To: Director of Communications and Advocacy
Category: Mid-Level, Full Time
Salary Range: $56,000 – $62,000

About the Role:  The Communications and Digital Advocacy Manager will work closely with the Director of Communications and Advocacy to develop and implement communications and digital advocacy strategies, including website, blog, and a variety of social media platforms. This role coordinates HC One’s presence in traditional media, supporting a wide range of reproductive justice and birth equity programs and advocacy initiatives. The ideal candidate for this position is a great storyteller, passionate about health equity, reproductive/racial justice, comfortable with remote work, and a marketing or digital communications professional. Experience with graphic design/illustration capabilities are also an asset for this role. 

NJ Doula Learning Collaborative Project Coordinator

Position: NJ DLC Project Coordinator
Reports To: Director of Project Management
Category: Entry Level
Salary Range: $42,000 – $48,000

About the Role:  The NJ DLC Project Coordinator will work with the HC One-NJ DLC project team to coordinate project objectives, including: advisory board facilitation, partner coordination, education and promotion of the DLC. This is a new position and will be hired at grant funding. The ideal candidate for this position is a New Jersey- based public health professional with experience in project management, intake coordination, and direct client referrals.

Interested in one of our job openings and joining the HC One team? Submit all of the required documents to the email listed in each job description. Please include the position title in the subject line. Applications are accepted until the stated application deadline, or until the position has been filled.

Check out our job openings page for more details!

COVID-19 Vaccine for Children (Ages 5-11)

COVID-19 Vaccines & Children

COVID-19 continues to affect Black, Brown and Indigenous communities, including children, disproportionately.

The only way to fight this virus and save our communities is by providing pregnant people and parenting families with the accurate, up-to-date information they need to make informed decisions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

Children 5 to 11 years old may now be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. A conversation with your healthcare provider may assist you in making your decision but is not required to obtain the vaccine.

Age-appropriate vaccines are safe, effective, free, and keeping children protected. Studies done in kids show that COVID-19 vaccines are very safe. Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines go through intensive testing before people can get it. Millions of U.S. kids are fully vaccinated already, with no serious safety concerns identified.

Children will often get two initial doses of the vaccine, at least 3 weeks apart. Children with weak immune systems (from some illnesses or medicines) may need a third dose 28 days after their second one to create a strong immune response.

You can speak with your child’s pediatrician, school nurse, or another trusted health care provider to help you decide whether to receive a vaccine. Note: a conversation with your healthcare provider may be helpful, but it is not required before vaccination.

Getting vaccinated prevents severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. Unvaccinated children should get vaccinated and continue masking until they are fully vaccinated. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention has updated guidance for fully vaccinated people based on new evidence on the Delta & Omicron variants.

Share this information with the parenting families you love, work with, and serve. It might save a life!

Resources on COVID-19 Vaccines & Birthing Families

Information on COVID-19 Vaccines & Pregnancy/Lactation

COVID Collaborative: Get COVID Answers: Questions & Answers About COVID-19 Vaccines | The Ad Council (getvaccineanswers.org)

Vaccine Factsheets: Vaccines: COVID-19

Visit the American Association of Pediatrics  for more details and recommendations on how to support families to make a decision.

Undoing Racism to Improve Birth Outcomes in Rochester

Last week, HealthConnect One joined Finger Lakes Performing Provider System, Finger Lakes Community Health, and the Healthy Baby Network launched the Rochester Doula Hub. This timely collaboration will provide culturally reflective community-based doula support to improve Black birth outcomes in Rochester.

Health inequities have long been tied to racism, poverty, physical environment, and stress, all outcomes linked to racism. Recently published data links racism, specifically redlining practices, to higher preterm births in Rochester, NY. These policies, which were in effect until the 1960s, resulted in decades of community disinvestment and high poverty in inner-city neighborhoods while denying Rochester residents the ability to build intergenerational wealth through homeownership.

Researchers identified preterm births (less than 37 weeks) by zip code, demographic characteristics of individuals, including race, and community survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau on income, poverty, and educational attainment. 

Nearly 13% of preterm births occurred in zip-codes labeled “hazardous” compared to 7.55% in areas marked “best” or “still desirable.” Birthing people who resided in “hazardous” areas also had a higher risk for other maternal complications, such as pregnancy-related hypertension, neonatal complications, and neonatal intensive care unit admission.

HealthConnect One’s partnership to co-develop the Black Doula Collaborative comes off the heals of our community-based doula model’s astounding results for nearly three decades. The culturally reflective, community-rooted support provided by doulas trained through our model will improve birth outcomes in Rochester, especially for Black babies and birthing people experiencing racism and adverse effects. 

This week, HealthConnect One team members will engage with doulas from Rochester utilizing HealthConnect One’s proven “train the trainer” model. The program, which will be based at Healthy Baby Network and Finger Lakes Community Health, will hire, onboard, and train doulas, including 16 community-based training sessions. FLPPS will fund six full-time equivalent doulas, which will serve 250 Black and Brown women. The program will develop referral pathways with healthcare systems and federally qualified health centers to facilitate care.

Download the full one-pager here. For questions, please reach out to info@healthconnectone.org

Power of Breastfeeding Reflection

I had my son and the hospital told me to go straight to the WIC office and that’s what I did.  I needed to figure out how to feed him. I can recall when I got to the WIC office they asked me for insurance and proof of income. I didn’t have any of this paperwork and they told me they were unable to give me any formula for him. I sat in the waiting room and began to cry. The lactation counselor, asked me why was I crying? I said I couldn’t feed my baby and they (WIC) wouldn’t give me any milk for him. She said to me: “you can feed your baby!” I asked, how?  She pointed to my breasts and began to teach me in the waiting area how to breastfeed my child. That is how my breastfeeding journey began for me and my child. In my community, no one I knew breastfed.

If the lactation counselor was not there that day, I would have gone home, and my grandmother probably would’ve given my son Carnation milk and Karo Syrup or Similac with iron, which is also a staple in the African American community. Sometimes, I would feed my baby in the bathroom because I felt embarrassed about breastfeeding at home when relatives were present. I did not have the education or support which is widely available today. I thought of my breast as sexual objects which is another reason it was uncomfortable for me to nurse in front of others. However, today I recommend breastfeeding with the same confidence and assurance as the lactation consultant did with me!

Infant Mortality Rates (IMR) is much higher among African Americans 4.7% Non- Hispanic White we need to give our babies a chance and it starts by putting them to our breast. If you need help learning to breastfeed your child a breastfeeding support counselor can help you latch your baby on today. Here is a list of organizations that are providing breastfeeding support or you can send us an inquiry at info@healthconnectone.org and we can refer you. – Tikvah Wadley, HC One Lead Doula

World Breastfeeding Week: Interview with Cata Contreras Guajardo on Breastfeeding

In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, we wanted to share a short interview with Cata Contreras Guajardo, the woman featured in the powerful photo above. We thank Cata for taking the time to share her thoughts on breastfeeding.

Why is breastfeeding important to you and your family?

Breastfeeding is not just food. For me and my children, it’s been caresses, shelter, and comfort. It’s also important to us because it’s consolation on nights when they are sick.

What was your breastfeeding experience like with your child?

The first few months of breastfeeding my second daughter was complicated. I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding. I would get in a bad mood and this impacts babies. As time went by, things began to improve and only positive things came from breastfeeding.

What kind of event were you participating in when you were breastfeeding your child?

Throughout my pregnancy, I had participated in the traditional Tinkus dance. On this day, I went to the festival early to rehearse and breastfed my four-month-old son during the break. My parents came with me and took the photo before the performance began. Amaru is going to be five-years-old and since he was a baby has been going to the festival and Andean ceremonies

What advice do you give moms who are trying to breastfeed?

To the moms reading this post: Don’t give up! Breastfeeding is our natural right. Sometimes, it hurts, makes us tired, and can overwhelm us but it’s not impossible. If you’re struggling with the process, find a breastfeeding/lactation peer counselor to help you with any breastfeeding issues.

Photo credit: Parents of Cata Contreras

***

Entrevista con Cata Contreras Guajardo sobre la lactacion materna

¿Por qué es tan importante la lactancia materna para usted y sus hijos?

la lactancia no es sólo alimento. Para mí y mis hijos han sido, caricias, cobijo y consuelo. Es importante para nosotros, fue la base de la alimentación, el consuelo de caídas y noches de enfermedad.

¿Cómo se han visto afectados usted y sus hijos por la lactancia materna?

Los primeros meses de lactancia de mi segunda hija fueron complicados, tuve heridas y no era agradable lactar, me ponía de mal humor e irritable y eso también afectaba a los bebés. Pasando los días fue mejorando y sólo fueron cosas positives.

Cuéntanos sobre la foto de ti con tu hijo

en esta foto mi hijo tenía 4 meses, había bailado Tinkus todo mi embarazo y este carnaval en específico me encantaba, así que mis padres me acompañaron cuidando a Amaru y me tomaron la foto ensayando antes de partir a bailar. Amaru está por cumplir 5 años y jamás ha dejado de asistir a carnavales y ceremonias andinas

 ¿Por qué es tan importante la lactancia materna para usted y sus hijos?

Mamá que estás leyendo esto: No te rindas !! La lactancia es nuestra naturaleza !! A veces duele, cansa y agobia, pero no es imposible! Buscar asistencia profesional puede resolver todos los problems!

(Autor de la photo: Padres de Cata Contreras) 

Jamarah Amani webinar photo

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 birth workers and others on HealthConnect One’s recent webinar.

“By increasing power, we also improve health outcomes,” Amani said. She was the featured presenter on the second of three webinars focusing on birth equity this spring and summer. Milwaukeean Dalvery Blackwell presented her agency’s birth equity work during COVID-19 on the first; a third is later this week in Spanish and in English

Amani is founder of the National Black Midwives Alliance, the only national professional association specifically for midwives of African descent, as well as director at Southern Birth Justice, working to expand the birth justice movement and to make midwifery and doula care accessible to all. She’s been honored numerous times for tackling the epidemics of black maternal and infant morbidity and mortality for more than 15 years, such as the 2019 Trailblazer Award from the city of Miami, as well as media coverage in Florida where she’s based and nationally.

Birth Justice Bill of Rights & Circle of Mamas 

Amani presented an approach that combines the toolboxes of the community health worker and the community organizer. She shared her organization’s Birth Justice Bill of Rights, 22 core values that Black and all other pre-conception, pregnant, birthing or postpartum persons have a right to–from the right to stand against racism to the right to recognize that my body is always mine. 

She also discussed their seven-year-old Circle of Mamas program, a combination childbirth preparation, doula support, and leadership development circle, Amani said: “e talk to young mamas about their birth options. We educate them, they educate us on what their needs are, and we work together collaboratively with our community in a participatory way to uplift and honor their needs.” 

She presented, with permission, the video birth story of Bianca, a young woman who participated in Circle of Mamas and chose to deliver at a birth center. 

“When I watched this video,” Amani said, “it really to me is what is possible when we come together as a community, when we have access to black midwives and black doulas, when young parents are not shamed but they are celebrated for their journey into motherhood  and parenting. This is to me what is possible.”

“And it doesn’t mean it’s easy. You know but it is possible. And it will help to not only improve health outcomes but make our communities better places to live and to grow. That is central to the birth justice movement.”

PPE for Black Midwives available 

As Amani explained in the opening portion of her pre-recorded presentation, a client was headed into labor at the scheduled time of the session. But that seemed to present few problems for Amani, nor for participants who tuned in through to the end of the session, facilitated by the HealthConnect One team. Joining the call were more than 130 people from 30 states and Puerto Rico, as well as several who joined in from Brazil and Canada.

The presentation lifted up historical birth workers including Onnie Lee Logan and Biddy Mason and was dedicated to Claudia Booker, the Washington, D.C. midwife who passed away earlier this year, a formative influence for Amani.

Before ending the session, Amani discussed key initiatives in her work during the time of COVID-19.  The National Black Midwives Alliance and Everyday Birth magazine are paying for Personal Protective Equipment for midwives of color facing difficulties getting these supplies. Information on how to request a kit or make donations to support purchase of additional kits is here.

Esperanza Dodge against car mural backdrop

Why I Give: Esperanza Dodge

 

We are grateful to our supporters!  As we prepare for our virtual event in June where we will recognize all of our Birth Equity Leadership Academy faculty and leaders, we wanted to say thank you to everyone who has invested in our work in recent weeks.

 

One of the first to contribute this past week was Esperanza Dodge, who was last year’s Sen. Richard J. Durbin Community Health Worker of the Year awardee. You can read all about it and her work as a Co-Founder of the New Mexico Doula Association and Operations Director of Bold Futures – formerly known as Young Women United here. Here are her comments on why she supports this work and how she is coping in the present moment.

 

1. Thank you again for giving. Can you share what motivated you to give to HealthConnect One last week?

I wanted to give back because HealthConnect One has given so much to not only myself and other BELA leaders and faculty, but to mamas, parents, families, babies. So many of the birth workers I have gotten to know since doing this work have a connection to HealthConnect One. That is showing the wide reach they have which can have a great impact on our communities. I see BELA as a big network of supporting one another and as a resource for one another. I chose to give because I believe in BELA.

 

2. How are you handling the COVID-19 pandemic in your birth work? What has been most successful for you in dealing with the pandemic? 

The funny thing is, I don’t do any direct birth work. What I do love, however, is birth justice advocacy. I’m still involved in the New Mexico Doula Association and it brings me joy to see doulas connect across the state, including indigenous doulas. There are issues all the doulas and birthing families are experiencing that are unique to their area. It feels like a support system has emerged as a result of COVID.

I’m an Operations Director at my organization, Bold Futures, formerly known as Young Women United. I take pride in the fact that those of us doing mostly internal, behind the scenes work can make sure our operations and internal policies accurately reflect our reproductive justice values. It’s one thing to be on the front lines with policymakers demanding the right for our families to have decent childbirth and family leave, and it’s another actually “walking the walk” so to speak and implement those within your own organization. Take care of your people and you strengthen to be the best version of themselves to go out there and make women and people of color proud!

3. Where do you see community-based doula work heading? Will it continue to grow?

I think COVID has brought about two types of responses by doulas to the pandemic. One being a greater “fire in the belly” to fight hard and make sure birth work is valued and doulas and families have the support and resources they need, and coming together to make action happen, The other is sometimes that it is nearly impossible to continue work as a doula and some are having to put aside their birth work for the time being.

Both are OK! People are making the choices we need to make to survive right now. Knowing what you, your family, your community need and are capable in the moment are what we should be listening to. It’s great to take action, but it’s also wonderful to find peace in some pause time or a change of pace. Doulas had a hard enough time getting the pay they deserved before the pandemic. Now, it has only made things more difficult.

4. What else is on your mind right now with regard to birth work and what should we be doing or thinking about? 

One of the most emotional things I’m witnessing is the exponentially increasing positive COVID-19 diagnoses within the Navajo Nation. While I am not Diné, I have loved ones and colleagues who are from and/or live there and are experiencing heartache like you couldn’t even imagine, losing more family members to the pandemic than most of us have. This is where I would love to see more resources and love going- to support families experiencing tragedy in the Navajo Nation.

Learn more about Every Baby Our Baby 2020 

Honoring Black Birth Workers of the Past

by Olivia Dockery

Black History Month is the time when we honor, reflect and learn about elders who have impacted Black culture and how their legacy is continued. This Black History Month, HealthConnect One wants to honor the legacies of Black birth workers who have played critical roles in improving the health outcomes of Black mothers, babies, and families. Today, Black women are three to four times more likely to die due to pregnancy-related causes than white women. Most of these deaths are preventable, so why does this disparity exist?

The 15th century marked the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade. Africans were enslaved and brought over to the Americas to provide labor in order to secure and build European settlements and wealth. To resist one of society’s most dehumanizing atrocities, enslaved Africans preserved traditions and customs. One of those customs were traditional birth practices. Traditional birth workers were vital to the survival of Black people. These birth workers, also known as “granny” midwives, were viewed as trusted community members with the ability to heal, care, and assist others. They were taught through practice and would pass down their knowledge from generation to generation.

Black birth workers were known as more than midwives; they were postpartum doulas, lactation consultants, family counselors, health educators, and so much more. The post- Emancipation period did not improve the quality of life for formerly enslaved Blacks. They had to succumb to working and living conditions similar to those on plantations. Black birth workers traveled all over the south to make sure that Black families received the care that was needed regardless of their geographic location or ability to pay. They bridged the gap between disenfranchised communities and the health care system. Advancement in medicine, systemic racism, and patriarchy pushed Black midwives out and provided space for the white, male doctors that conquered U.S. medical institutions. Midwifery began to be regarded as an unsafe, outdated model of childbirth and “by the 20th century, 50% of births were attended by a midwife.”

According to ProPublica,  “only 10% of all births were attended by a midwife,”  and 2% of midwives in the U.S. are Black, noted the American College of Nurse-Midwives.” Multiple studies have shown that midwives and doulas can improve the health outcomes of mothers and babies. It is clear that community-based birth workers can lead successful interventions to combat the racial disparities that exist within maternal and child health. While we encourage Black health professionals to enter the birthing field, we must continue to challenge and dismantle the systems of racism and patriarchy. Black birth workers of the past did just that, today we honor them.

Spotlight On Historical Black Birth Workers

Bridget “Biddy” Mason was born enslaved in Georgia during the early 19th century. She was not only a midwife, but an advocate for other enslaved Black people. Her last owner moved west to California and there she petitioned for her and her family’s freedom. Once she was free, she began to save money from her midwifery practice. She founded the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in L.A. Through Mason’s acquired wealth, she became known as a local philanthropist. She donated to many charities, fed and housed low-income families, and visited prisoners. She also founded an elementary school for Black children. Bridget “Biddy” Mason’s contribution to improving the lives of Black families will not be forgotten.

Margaret Charles Smith didn’t start practicing midwifery until her late 30s. She was one of Greene County, Alabama’s first official midwives in 1949. Her career spanned over 35 years and she delivered over 3,000 babies. Smith worked mostly in the rural, Jim Crow South where there was little to no care for Black mothers and their families; whether there were no accessible health facilities or the health facilities refused to treat Black patients. In 1996, Smith wrote a book about her life as a midwife, Listen to Me Good: The Life Story of an Alabama Midwife. In 2010, she was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame. Margaret Charles Smith’s legacy of caring for marginalized and underserved communities lives on through the contemporary work of Black birth workers.

Mary Francis Hill Coley also known as Miss Mary was a midwife that practiced in Georgia for more than three decades. She trained under another great, Black midwife, Onnie Lee Logan. Miss Mary was a pillar of her community. Along with her midwifery practice, she became a health advocate for rural Black families. In 1952, Miss Mary was asked to do a training video for the Georgia Health Department. It was clear that Miss Mary was an expert at her craft, her patients and community loved her. The documentary, All My Babies: A Midwife’s Own Story, received critical acclaim and was used by the World Health Organization and United Nations to train midwives across the globe. We honor Miss Mary and the work she has done to improve the health outcomes of Black moms, babies, and families.

This month, HealthConnect One will be publishing our latest  in-depth brief “Community-Based Doulas and the Medicalization of Birth.” Stay tuned!!!

Pure CHW Awesomeness in South Carolina

by Amber Pendergraph, Community-Based Doula with BirthMatters

Talk about Pure Awesomeness!

I recently had the honor of being grandfathered into a Community Health Worker (CHW) course. The course was followed by a certification exam to become a certified community health worker for South Carolina! The training I attended was facilitated by Julie Smithwick. I thoroughly enjoyed her teaching style and strategies.

A CHW is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community in which they serve. A CHW works directly with a member of the community as a liaison. They work to improve patient outcomes, increase access to healthcare, and address social determinants by bridging the gap between healthcare organizations and their communities to combat the ethnic and racial disparities in healthcare.

I am very passionate about the work that I do within my community. I have been in my career as a Community-Based Doula with BirthMatters for 8+ years. BirthMatters replicates the HealthConnect One model. This model is so amazing because you meet the individuals where they are. This community-based model that I follow as a doula believes we, the community members, have the solutions to these complex health disparities. It is very empowering.

Although I have been working within my community for many years, I had a lot of takeaways from the training. I learned so much and I am sure I will utilize the information to enhance my skills as a Community-Based Doula. There were two things that really spoke to me from this training:

  • First was the importance of cultural competence, which means to be respectful and responsive to all health beliefs and practices. This was a part of the HealthConnect One training and it’s nice to revisit this essential component.
  • The second is the need for health equity, which means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be healthier!

Because of this course, in my role as a community health worker doula, I will strive to practice these core competencies. I will work with my community to remove obstacles such as poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to good jobs and fair pay. I now feel more than ever that I am equipped to help members of my community by sharing resources and connecting with other organizations within the community I serve.