Looking Forward , Sarah Verbiest, founder of Every Woman Southeast, reflects on the new year and what it holds.
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On our just completed first webinar (yeah) we provided some brief information as to the origin of our name “Every Woman Southeast”. We thought it might be good to share a bit more information about it here – to be sure to give credit where credit is due. Back in the early 1990s when the National Committee on Perinatal Health (COPH) was meeting to develop the recommendations for the report “Toward Improving the Outcome of Pregnancy: The 90s and Beyond” (TIOP II, 1993) there was substantial interest in preconception care. During the meetings the following recommendation emerged… “The COPH recommends a new strategy to reach each woman of childbearing age with reproductive awareness messages at every health encounter. The goal is to reach all women from menarche to menopause with reproductive health promotion and health education. Reproductive awareness dialogue at every encounter will facilitate knowledge of risks, healthy behaviors, and family-planning options. This will empower the individual to take charge of her reproductive future.” When the TIOP was rolled out, this recommendation was called “every woman, every time” in the press release. Arlene Cullum and Kiko Malin from California deserve much credit for popularizing the term “every woman” for preconception health work. Thank you to Arlene, Kiko and the many founding mothers and fathers who have helped create this wonderful new movement.

Every Woman Southeast will be hosting our first webinar on November 4th, 2010 from 12-1:30pm EST. We have a great line up of speakers who will present a wide variety of options for groups to consider in organizing themselves to promote women’s wellness / preconception health. This information is relevant to groups interested in organizing at a state level as well as those trying to organize at a more local level. One of the biggest opportunities that the preconception health movement offers is the chance to bridge gaps and form new partnerships to work together toward some common goals. Of course this is MUCH easier said than done. The webinar offers the opportunity to hear how three states, one national organization and our Every Woman Southeast Initiative have approached this challenge.

Interested in joining us? Please do – you can register by going to our website. The box in the bottom right corner of our site will take you to information about the speakers, their slides and the login link. At this point we don’t know if we can archive the webinar. We’d like to but aren’t sure just yet if it is technically and financially feasible. We also are not offering CEUs for this webinar although we will investigate doing so for future webinars.

We owe a BIG thank you to the March of Dimes for working with us to host the webinar – couldn’t do it without them. As of Friday at 1pm we have over 125 participants registered…with hopefully more to follow.

Sign up and join us!

Our new website went live on Sunday October 10, 2010! While being on the web is a great step, the challenge will be keeping our website current and relevant, as well as making sure people know it exists. For that we need everyone’s help. If you see errors or broken links let us know. If you have resources or updates for us to post – please send them to us. You can email Sarah at or post a comment below.

Having trouble getting to the site? It might be a little confusing with our blog being a dot com and the site being a dot org. But we’ll make it happen. The blog is featured on the homepage of the site. If you’ve landed on our blog first – click on the link above and you should be at the website. Please bookmark it as a favorite and come back.

Still having trouble? You might need to clear your browser history and cache then shift and reset. That should work. If not, post a comment and we’ll figure it out.

Thanks everyone – happy reading!

The Every Woman Southeast Initiative has been very busy since our last post. Our leadership team has met by conference call several times a month over the summer into early fall. It’s amazing what you can get done by phone!

Together we’ve put together the content for our new website – – which we hope to launch within a week or so. The website will have alot of information about our Initiative as well as updates on the preconception health related activities underway in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi. We have current news and information about preconception health related resources from around the country.

We have also organized our first webinar to be held on Thursday November 4th from 12 to 1:30 EST. The March of Dimes is helping us host that call – stay tuned for the weblink. The webinar will provide examples of ways that several states in the Southeast have organized around preconception health.

Finally, we’ve developed goals, aims and activities for our first collaborative project. In light of the fact that over 12% of women in the Southeast have birth to conception intervals of 6 months or less, we thought that focusing on reducing short birth intervals and improving postpartum visit utilization would be a good place to start. Now to just find the right partner to provide us with the resources to take our next steps.

Other members of the leadership team have agreed to become bloggers which will be fun as well as offering our readers a wide variety of perspectives on working together to improve the health of women and their children.

We are now moving into the second phase of developing Every Woman Southeast. We have a small committee of volunteers from the region who are willing to offer their time to help develop funding proposals and find potential funders. If anyone out there would like to help or offer us ideas for funding, please do!

Having strong state consortiums is essential to this endeavor. So we hope to find a way to channel additional resources to these different groups in our region. Every Woman Southeast can then link the eight state consortia together to form a very large and powerful team.

Our next steps will include conference calls with our new leadership committee, talking with people about potential RFAs, and doing some outreach to the states to learn more about the status of their preconception consortium and their needs. We are also going to try to hold a webinar in July 2010 focused on consortium development.

Lots to do – we’d love to have your help!

We are ready to move forward with our next steps in working together as a region to improve the health of women of childbearing age in the South. To make this happen we need YOUR help. First, if you are interested in learning more about the ideas shared during the March 2, 2010 meeting, you can access a complete summary of the notes at – click on programs and plans. Or you can just link to it by clicking here.

One activity that was universally endorsed was compiling and sharing information with each other about programs, campaigns, and products being developed and underway in our region. To that end we are putting the finishing touches on the first version of our Region IV Preconception Compendium. We acknowledge that this will be incomplete as there is much activity underway in the South. But it will be a good place to start. We hope to find interium funding to develop a more interactive database via a new website in the future.

Our next immediate action steps for the consortium are to a) develop a purpose statement and talking points and b) develop grant proposals and acquire funding for our next phase of work. As such we are seeking some good volunteers to help us move this forward. Both workgroups will be short term commitments. If you are interested in either area please email Sarah Verbiest at or call her at 919-843-7865.

Next steps for states include finding a home for their preconception health state team and then identifying leadership and reaching out to connect people in their state who are providing some kind of preconception / well woman outreach and services. If you are from Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina or Tennessee and would like to get involved, let Sarah know and she’ll connect you. State teams have also commited to sending in additional information about preconception related activities in their states for the compendium mentioned above.

We also agreed that we will schedule a series of webinars – open to anyone in the southern region – that will feature the work of colleagues within the eight states. The first webinar will take place in June and will showcase our talking points and purpose as well as an update on national preconception activities that are of interest to the south. Two other webinars – possibly featuring work on folic acid and interconception health – will take place during the summer / early fall. These will be free – stay tuned for more details.

Our next posting will feature some ideas / tips about pulling together a preconception consortium. Please send us your thoughts and comments!

Against some big odds, the Every Woman Southeast Consortium was launched on Tuesday March 2nd in Atlanta. Teams from each of the eight states made it there along with representatives from the March of Dimes, CDC, AMCHP, HRSA, ACOG and HHS. We even had a surprise visit from the esteemed Dr. Fleda Jackson. We had a total of 42 very smart and highly engaged people in attendance.

The participants worked hard all day as we went through introductions and state updates, a visioning exercise, discussion groups focused on horizontal integration, discussion groups about how to build the consortium, a presentation about the RNDMU Network (Region IV Network for Data Management and Utilization) and next steps. We ended the day with what we had hoped – clear actionable items and a consensus that we should move forward.

Interestingly, we met through a snow event – who would have thought we’d have snow in Atlanta in March! This caused some travel delays and worries but in the end I think everyone got home ok.

Notes from the meeting along with photos will be posted soon. Stay tuned! Thank you to everyone who took the time out of your busy schedules to participate. The Southern Region most certainly will lead the nation in preconception health.

The travel teams are starting to come together although we still haven’t heard from a number of states. Of those who have submitted names, we have been pleased to see that a diversity of agencies will be represented. States with a pre existing preconception health council or structure may be having an easier time putting their travel team together than other states. What do you think?

Our next call will be on Wednesday January 27th. I hope we get a good response.

PS We’re up to 214 surveys – that’s a lot but I know we’re missing many people and projects.

Mississippi has come in first among the states for putting their travel team in place. Have seven states to go with a January 22nd deadline. Here in North Carolina our Preconception Leadership Team has begun to talk about the composition of a team. We are challenged to look at our larger preconception stakeholders (over 200 people on our listserv) and think about the diversity of people we have involved. We definitely need to reach out to some additional regions of our state, to other groups doing wellness related activities and to some different industries such as health care plans. We’re thinking that this regional initiative could provide some new synergy to help us get more groups involved.

As for the survey, we’re up to 189 responses. Of those 47% are from Florida, 22% from North Carolina, and 13% from South Carolina. We definitely need to do more to get this survey out there – particularly in Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Blog readers – we’d appreciate your help with this one.

We had our first conference call for the partnership on Wednesday afternoon. Over 50 people dialed in representing all 8 states! The people on the call asked great questions and offered significant help in promoting the survey and organizing state and travel teams. The energy was really positive. It is a big endeavor to take on but the call was reassuring that there are lots of people out there who like the idea of finding away for Southern sisters and brothers to work together on this issue. Next step…travel teams and information collection.

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