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Grassroots Maternal and Child Health Initiative

Logo for Grassroots Maternal & Child Health Initiative


The Grassroots Maternal and Child Health Initiative builds the capacity of individuals and organizations in marginalized communities to bring about systems change to improve maternal and child health (MCH) outcomes.


Mothers, infants, and families live in communities that foster their health, well-being and development.

Group photo of leadersApproach

The mission of the Grassroots Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Initiative is grounded in a human-rights based approach to MCH. We believe that system change work must be done in equitable partnership with community members. To this end, the initiative started its work by going into communities across Indiana with poor MCH outcomes and training and mentoring women with lived experiences in these communities to be Grassroots MCH Leaders. These women are trained and mentored to be community activists, developers and systems change agents. Together we all work to address the inequitable social and economic systems that lie at the heart of poor MCH outcomes.

We have trained 35 Grassroots MCH Leaders across ten counties since its inception in 2018. They are:

  • 18 African American, 12 White, three Latina (bilingual English and Spanish), two Black immigrants (Niger, Guinea, Muslim, bilingual French and English)
  • Diverse across many variables (faith, geography, income, education)
  • 49% remain very active in the work. Of these, 76% are funded by other grants focused on the priority areas of the initiative, 20% help as needed, 31% have exited due to relocation or family/work issues.

Executive Council

Headshot of Kelly Evans

Kelly Evans



Deb Fisher Headshot

Deb Fisher



Destiny Faceson Headshot

Destiny Faceson



Nina Porter Headshot

Nina Porter



LaToya Hale Headshot

LaToya Hale



Tia Washum Headshot

Tia Washum



Focus Areas

Housing Equity for Infant Health

  • Healthy Beginnings at Home: We coordinate housing navigation, 24 months of rental assistance and comprehensive case management for Indianapolis pregnant women who are housing insecure.

  • Health Justice Intervention: In partnership with the Indiana Justice Project, we are bringing about systems change in the legal/judicial system via community-based Know Your Rights education sessions, strategic litigation, and judicial/legal education to prevent eviction of pregnant women and mothers of infants.

  • Funding partners: US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Indiana Dept. of Health, CareSource Foundation, Birge and Held Asset Management, Riley Children’s Foundation.

Mothers on the Rise

We developed and are implementing programming to serve mother/baby pairs as they reside in the Leath Nursery of the Indiana Women’s Prison and as they transition and live in their home community.

  • Provide individualized coordinated system of care for mother/baby pairs transitioning from Leath Unit to community.

  • Provide infant education, maternal attachment curricula within the Leath Unit to build the parenting capacity of mothers.

  • Funding Partners: Indiana Dept. of Health, Riley Children’s Foundation.

Equity in Early Childhood Education

We are building novel infant and parenting education programming within marginalized communities so that all infants get the opportunity to thrive.

  • Promises of Parenting Program: This work provides evidence-based infant education to the mother/baby pairs residing in the Leath Nursery Unit of the Indiana Women’s Prison.

  • Fort Wayne Infant Education Program: This program in partnership with the Early Childhood Alliance of Fort Wayne works to build the economic and teaching capacity of early childhood providers in Fort Wayne zip codes with poor MCH and socioeconomic outcomes.

  • Funding partners: Early Learning Indiana, Riley Children’s Foundation.

Faith-Based Maternal and Child Health Promotion

We work with faith-based organizations in low-income communities to build programming to serve the needs of the mothers, infants, and families they serve. Funding partners: Riley Children’s Foundation, AmeriCorps.

Community Lawyering

In partnership with the Indiana Justice Project, we work with an array of legal partners to break down the legal barriers that impede women and families from accessing services needed to foster their health and well-being. Funding partners: Riley Children’s Foundation.

Learn more by listening to the Ideas for Practice podcast with guest Jack Turman, Jr., PhD.

Contact Us

To learn more, connect with project managers of each focus area or contribute to the Grassroots MCH Initiative, please contact:

Jack Turman, Jr., PhDJack Turman, Jr Headshot
Professor of Pediatrics
Director, Grassroots MCH Initiative
Indiana University School of Medicine