HealthConnect One (HC One)– an organization that seeks to advance respectful, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting– is celebrating Latino-Hispanic Heritage Month through conversation and support for breastfeeding traditions.
Their blog series, Celebrating our Breastfeeding Traditions, features individuals who are breastfeeding leaders, advocates of breastfeeding support, and members of breastfeeding families.
Helen Dimas, CLC, LSP, HC One Trainer and Project Coordinator, tells me that the organization’s success in transforming communities over 30 years, specifically through its Breastfeeding Program, is based on the peer model.
“The community health workers (CHWs) are trusted members of the community in which they serve,” Dimas explains. “The CHWs often act as role models for the communities they serve. They let the families know they too can achieve healthy outcomes for themselves and their families.”
“The community-based model is a cost effective strategy that works,” Dimas says. “It achieves significant and even dramatic outcomes.”
The Perinatal Revolution’s Executive Summary states:
The most compelling data findings were the high breastfeeding rates and low c-section rates achieved by the Community-Based Doula Programs implementing this model. Women supported by a high-quality Community-Based Doula Program breastfed their babies at dramatically higher rates, with women in the program sometimes breastfeeding at twice the rate of the comparison group. These data reinforce equally strong findings from the original pilot of this program led by HealthConnect One in Chicago. The fact that community-based doulas work with very disadvantaged populations makes these findings even more significant.
It is true that sustainability of this model “requires integration of the program into a variety of systems and venues.”
Dimas says she has seen the programs integrated in federally funded centers, hospitals, community organizations and social agencies.
Last month, HC One hosted an “experiential” Shared Voices for Equity in Birth and Breastfeeding Summit.
“Our strength is knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer sharing,” Dimas explains. “We created a space where people could share information, resources, and learned from one another. Participants left feeling invigorated and feeling the power of what they do. It’s like ‘Yes! I am able to continue doing this!’”
Dimas also highlights Senator Dick Durbin’s direct address of the success of CHWs and their allies, as well as a presentation by the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI) that covered issues that CHWs face in their work.
Dimas adds, “What I do is a not just a job. It’s a passion. I am so grateful to be in a place where I am able to work in an organization that makes a difference when it comes to improving health outcomes for women, babies, and their families.”
Visit http://www.healthconnectone.org/ to learn more about HC One’s work and find out how you can get involved.