MADISON, Wis. — The Dane County Health Council (DCHC) and its partners proudly celebrate six years of the groundbreaking Saving Our Babies initiative, sharing the impacts of ConnectRx Wisconsin, an innovative care coordination program that has already shown positive outcomes addressing the county’s longstanding Black maternal and infant health crisis in its first two years. 

In 2018, DCHC and community partners, including the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness (FFBWW) and EQT By Design, set out to eliminate the racial birth disparities impacting Black mothers and babies in Dane County. This county-wide effort emerged from DCHC’s 2017 decision, based on community health needs assessment data, to focus on Black maternal and child health. In committing to a single priority, DCHC paved the way for what today has become a partnership between health systems and community partners that is yielding positive gains and demonstrating the power of collective impact on solving a public health crisis.

“Saving Our Babies and ConnectRx are proof of what new approaches, the right partners and focused, sustained investment can produce,” said Robin Lankton, vice president of Population Health at UW Health, a member organization of DCHC since its inception in 2001. “The early and consistent wins we are witnessing demonstrate that we can disrupt Black maternal and child health disparities by creating solutions ‘with, rather than for,’ our community.”

Under the umbrella of the Saving Our Babies initiative, ConnectRx Wisconsin has emerged as a revolutionary solution to reducing health and social needs risks of Black pregnant women and birthing persons served through local hospitals and clinics. Through a wrap-around service delivery model designed by initiative partners with community input from more than 300 Black community members, ConnectRx Wisconsin deploys a dual workforce of clinic- and community-based health workers and trained doulas to support patients' health, social, economic, mental health and other resource needs. It utilizes a social determinants of health screening tool collaboratively developed by DCHC, FFBWW, EQT by Design and Epic, which is embedded in the electronic health record system to screen all local pregnant patients. Since April 2022, 674 Black pregnant patients who were screened as high-risk have been referred to ConnectRx Wisconsin for coordinated care, of which 600 were provided essential resources for housing, food, transportation and financial assistance. Among the 411 Black pregnant patients who opted to enroll in ConnectRx Wisconsin for additional birthing support, 234 healthy births have occurred so far, including 172 doula-supported births, showcasing the invaluable role of doulas in helping achieve positive birth outcomes. 

During the 20-month evaluation period of ConnectRx Wisconsin, 90% of babies born with doula support reached optimal gestational age, and an impressive 84% were born at a healthy birth weight, addressing a critical factor in reducing Black infant mortality rates. Furthermore, in year one, 68% of clients avoided medical interventions, while an unprecedented 94% initiated breastfeeding, fostering healthy beginnings for mothers and babies alike.        

The universal risk screener in ConnectRx Wisconsin, which began as a vital tool to assess the needs of high-risk Black pregnant patients, is now being leveraged by health system partners to support all birthing people in the county. Between April 2022 and December 2023, more than 7,500 pregnant patients were screened for health and social needs by DCHC health system partners. ConnectRx Wisconsin has demonstrated the ability to go beyond screening to proactively address the root causes of a suite of health challenges.                                                                            

“Saving Our Babies is not only transforming how care is delivered to Black mothers and all birthing people in Dane County. But we are fundamentally proving that the best and most effective solutions arise from community wisdom and know-how coupled with traditional systems,” said Lisa M. Peyton, CEO and president of the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, an organization that has been a key strategic partner to DCHC from day 1. “What separates Saving Our Babies from other efforts is the deep investment in both community capacity and Black women’s leadership, not only at the top but in the representative workforce we’ve built that’s making the difference on the frontlines. This is where the power lies in the change we’re witnessing."                                    

The impact of Saving Our Babies extends beyond individual births, encompassing broader community engagement and advocacy efforts. In partnership with the Foundation for Black Women's Wellness, the Black Maternal & Child Health Alliance (BMCHA) will host the Fourth Annual Black Maternal Child Health Summit on April 18. The event now attracts more than 500 registrants across Wisconsin and the United States, underscoring the national significance and impacts driven by initiative partners. The FFBWW and BMCHA continue to lead the way in engaging community stakeholders, advocates and experts on the urgency of Black maternal and child health, playing a vital role in informing and influencing local and statewide maternal and child health policies and practices.

As the Saving Our Babies initiative moves forward to create a new standard of excellence for Black maternal and child health, DCHC and its partners are turning their attention to long-term sustainability to ensure that the momentum gained over the last six years continues and is accelerated. Partners are calling on a wider range of public, private and community stakeholders to invest in the work, and are scaling up their efforts to pursue payment models and pathways like Medicaid and other health insurance reimbursement for community health worker and doula services. 

“Sustainability and systems-change are our shared priorities now,” said Gabe Doyle, chief health initiatives officer at FFBWW, who has been a part of the initiative since its inception and plays a central role in the strategy and implementation of the model. “Now more than ever as our early sources of support are expiring, we need strong and stable funding commitments from all sectors to ensure that Saving Our Babies and ConnectRx are not another well-intended effort that loses steam. The lives of Black mothers and babies are at stake, and they deserve our investment.”

For more information on Saving Our Babies, contact DCHC Program Director, Ariel Robbins at 608-890-8412 or and visit

The Dane County Health Council is a coalition of healthcare providers, government and nonprofits with a mission to eliminate gaps and barriers to optimal health and reduce disparities in health outcomes in Dane County. Council members include Access Community Health Centers, Black Maternal and Child Health Alliance, Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin, Madison Metropolitan School District, Public Health Madison & Dane County, SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, United Way of Dane County, UnityPoint Health – Meriter and UW Health. 

Contact: Sara Benzel

(608) 852-2605