Partner Spotlight: March of Dimes

March of Dimes logo on clip art of a spotlight

The March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. The organization supports research, leads programs, and provides education and advocacy so every family can have the best possible start.

Nationally, the organization partners with similar nonprofits on advocacy issues such as Medicaid expansion and other programs that support maternal and infant health. In North Carolina, the partnerships hit even closer to home.

“We are proud to partner with Every Baby Guilford as part of the Guilford County Health Department and the effort to reduce maternal and infant mortality,” said Michaela Penix, director of maternal infant health for the March of Dimes in North Carolina. “We want everyone to understand that becoming pregnant does not magically make you healthy.”

Another March of Dimes project, in conjunction with the local American Heart Association, Every Baby Guilford, and Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready), aims to raise awareness about how health impacts moms and babies. In response to the high rates of infant mortality in Guilford County, Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies is a collaboration between these four organizations to form an innovative approach that aims to address the drivers of infant mortality while empowering mothers of Color in trusted community spaces. Programs such as Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies support mothers and contribute to raising healthy, smart babies.

“We are equipping barbers and stylists in Guilford County with health information they can share with their customers, train them to talk with their peers or clients, and share statistics and information, so they are like a patient navigator,” Penix said. “We want them to know about community resources offering primary care services and talk with their clients about their health while cutting and styling their hair.”

Penix says the program is a natural fit for barber shops and hair salons since stylists and barbers develop relationships that foster intimate conversations. “My beautician is somewhat of a therapist for me,” Penix shared, “Many people have similar relationships. We want to make sure the barbers and stylists have accurate health information and can dispel myths about heart health and pregnancy. Their encouragement to a client to get a checkup or check their blood pressure can impact the health of our community.”

As part of Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies, The Basics Guilford will provide bookshelves and books for young children in the barber shops and salons. Those book nooks will be installed this summer.

“The barbers and beauticians have been so incredible and excited to do their part in making their community healthy,” Penix said. “There are so many studies that have supported the use of barbers and beauticians as peer educators and an effective means to help reduce the rates of HIV, increase the rates of condom usage, breast cancer screenings, barbers and beauticians have been made making it happen for decades. And so, for them to know that they are part of an effective strategy and they are being highlighted as champions, they’re thrilled.”

The Cemala Foundation has provided a one-year $67,000 grant to these four organizations for Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies in Guilford County.