Partner Spotlight: March of Dimes

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.


Staff profile: Michelle Chapin

The Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) staff has grown exponentially during the pandemic. But while you’re meeting many new staff members in our newsletter, many of you may already know Project Manager: Ages Prenatal-3 Michelle Chapin.

“I started working with Ready Ready in 2017 as a contract staff member to support early literacy and our Continuous Quality Improvement work,” Chapin said. “Now I help advance our collaborative work with expansion program partners, families, and medical homes.”

Chapin said having more staff capacity has really catapulted Ready Ready into a position to tackle the extensive work that the organization has long envisioned, tested, and piloted – remaining true to our mission and vision. “Having more staff with a variety of expertise, diversity, and backgrounds has helped us better inform how we approach our work to the benefit of Guilford County families.”

Chapin particularly enjoys working with community partners to create population-level change in her role at Ready Ready. “We work with such a great wealth of experience and knowledge through our community partners,” she said. “Working alongside Guilford County families with their own lived experiences and perspectives is critical because we’re building a system of care with families that needs to work for families.”

Michelle Chapin stands with her daughter, who is seated on their horse, QOutside of her work day, Chapin enjoys running outdoors. She said the physical activity helps her with work-life balance, and enjoying the scenery is equally refreshing. “Around our neighborhood, I see deer, chipmunks, and have even seen a fox. It’s just relaxing to be out, and when you see something like that in the wild or your backyard, you just stop and are in awe of it.”

Something else she finds therapeutic? “My therapy is cleaning horse stalls. It’s both rewarding and a great workout,” she said. “My daughter’s passion is riding, and having an activity we can do together is really important to me. We are together at the barn where she rides, taking care of our horse, Q. It’s rewarding to have a project that you can see from start to finish, marking your progress and having the result of a neat and tidy space when you’re done.”