Generate Health – Uplifting Thriving Black Families

What do Black families in St. Louis need to thrive before, during, and beyond pregnancy? Generate Health explored this question after recognizing that years of racially inequitable policies and practices had created a cycle of distrust and unfavorable maternal care outcomes among many Black St. Louisans as they navigated their pregnancy and parenthood journeys. Unsatisfied with the status quo, Generate Health determined that a completely new approach to maternal care was needed—one built on trusted relationships.

Envisioning a collaborative network with home visitation as the gateway, Generate Health invited YouthBridge Community Foundation to join other stakeholders in the St. Louis region to assess the idea. Upon identifying a shared purpose of improving outcomes for St. Louis-area youth and families, YouthBridge became a key partner. Barbara Carswell, YouthBridge CEO, leveraged the foundation’s network and introduced Generate Health to the philanthropic community. According to Kendra Copanas, Executive Director of Generate Health, backing by YouthBridge was priceless and helped the organization grow its credibility and relationships. After hosting two symposiums entitled “Investing in Equity for Black Moms and Babies,” support followed, including a transformative Think Big for Kids grant from YouthBridge in 2021.

Kendra explained the organization’s premise that systems and services designed by those who use them will result in success. For the Generate Health network, called Bloom, this involves the community itself, including birthing people, behavioral health providers, nutritionists, and all others who impact the experiences and health outcomes of Black parents and families. It requires providers who can view families holistically and identify when other disciplines are needed. The agency’s approach incorporates feedback at all levels and invites the community served to help build trust and strengthen the system. The Think Big for Kids grant awarded by YouthBridge is fueling this approach. Funds are being used to train partners and to develop a referral and intake system with access points on the Generate Health website, allowing data sharing among all partnering service providers.

In addition to strengthening health networks that center families, Generate Health hosts community events where they seek to “demystify” the health care system. Community members can learn and connect directly with support services in a relaxed setting. For example, the organization recently hosted a Speed Connect event focusing on mental health called “How You Doin’?” Carie Mellenthin, Manager of Strategic Initiatives, explained that the speed dating format of short, rotating conversations was intended to create a sense of freedom and to decrease reluctance to talk with mental health care providers. Despite being tasked with ringing a bell after the allotted time, or earlier if conversation was lagging, Carie and her team were pleased to observe that attendees were comfortable and engaged as they met with the health care professionals, so they allowed conversations to flow naturally. Generate Health plans to host more community events like this one to highlight various health topics in fun and accessible ways.

Just like the Speed Connect conversations, the relationship between Generate Health and YouthBridge has progressed naturally, and due to its foundation of trust, is proving to be strong. “YouthBridge has been a partner, not just a donor. Not only does its support present credibility for what we’re doing, the leadership provided has been invaluable,” says Kendra Copanas. The mission of Generate Health has yet to be fully realized, and with improvement opportunities still existing, the organization looks forward to increasing its impact in partnership with YouthBridge.

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