When we work together to ensure kids and families have what they need to be healthy and well, our entire community flourishes.
The HealthConnect Fellowship was built on this idea, coupled with a belief that people drive changes in our systems that remove barriers and create opportunities for children to thrive. But isolated advocates working on separate issues cannot address the complex tangle of challenges impacting kids and families.
In summer 2019, the first seven HealthConnect fellows urged Mid-Iowa Health Foundation to expand the fellowship initiative. They believed that more advocates with shared values and diverse resources were required to reach the tipping point that would lead to greater outcomes for our community’s kids.
When the expanded group of 20 fellows began their journey together in October 2019, we never anticipated the ways the landscape would shift. Facing the combined forces of the COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide calls for racial justice, and a painful economic downturn, the fellows pivoted their efforts, and some began to reimagine strategies for improving children’s health. At the center of this work was a collective acknowledgment that anti-racism and equity are vital to achieving meaningful systems change.
This journey has required all the fellows—as well as supporting staff—to look within ourselves and embrace vulnerability, to recognize what authentic partnership means and what it demands of us, to boldly dream about what we can achieve, and to have the courage to articulate that vision to others. The fellowship also taught us to listen. By centering the voices of those impacted by the issues we aim to address, we can elevate their ideas and what they say they need to be healthy and well.
The 2021 HealthConnect Fellowship Report recounts the journey the 20 fellows have been on for the past 18 months, what they’ve achieved individually and collectively, and what they’ve learned about leading systems-change work. While their accomplishments are extraordinary, we recognize that 20 advocates are still not sufficient to enact the level of change kids and families in Greater Des Moines need.
Above all, this report is an invitation to our community to learn alongside us, to consider new approaches, and to join this effort for the long haul.
Mid-Iowa Health Foundation is indebted to the HealthConnect fellows for their incredible commitment to advancing important issues and for challenging all of us to do more for our kids. We are grateful to the organizations that allowed the fellows time and space to do this work, as well as many partners who provided direction and support. We offer special thanks to our Board of Directors for recognizing the importance of the HealthConnect Fellowship and for championing the fellows’ work.
Despite the tremendous challenges we’ve faced and the long road still ahead, the fellows give us hope that change is possible when we work together.
Outcomes from Mid-Iowa Health Foundation's HealthConnect Fellowship, October 2019-June 2021
Teenagers in jumpsuits lying on yoga mats, their eyes closed, their bodies still. This is the image Megan Hoxhalli describes as remarkable for juvenile detention, a place where youth arrive shaken, dysregulated, and scared about their future.