Over the summer, the WHAMglobal interns had the opportunity to interview a number of women's health leaders in the community in order to learn more about the assets available to pregnant women in Allegheny County. This blog by summer intern Janelle DeBaldo highlights the learnings from their interview with Jada Shirriel, CEO of Healthy Start Pittsburgh.
"It is hard for a baby to be healthy if the mom is not healthy," exclaimed Jada Shirriel.Shirriel is the Chief Executive Officer of Healthy Start, a non-profit organization that provides education and support to women and children in the Pittsburgh area. Through their education and support, Healthy Start aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates through free health programs and services.
The WHAMglobal interns at the Jewish Healthcare Foundation had the pleasure of speaking with Shirriel about her background and dove more in depth on how Healthy Start is an important community based resource in the Pittsburgh area.Shirriel received her undergraduate degree from Morgan State University and her master's degree in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University. She has a great deal of experience in fundraising and program development. Her current day-to-day routine involves being accountable for everything that is happening at Healthy Start, overseeing service deliveries, increasing visibility in the community, and managing a team of 30 people, amongst many other day-to-day tasks.
"Increasing visibility in the community is very important," Shirriel said. "It is really important we make sure our participants have a good experience. We want mothers to come back to use our services."
Healthy Start serves 1,000 women and children yearly and hopes to increase that number in years to come. The non-profit helps to better educate the community, targeting women and men within Allegheny County, to gain a better understanding of care for themselves and their newborns. They also aim to achieve culturally sensitive work to reach different populations within the community.
Building a relationship with the women during their pregnancy and continuing the care after they have given birth is a key component of the non-profit. Shirriel identified housing and transportation as two major services Healthy Start would like to see improve. Healthy Start continues to work towards improvement in these areas, by partnering with various community organizations.
"In an ideal world, we would be a community that supports each other," Shirriel believes. "Across any community or any society, women are gatekeepers to a family and community health. Healthy Start invests and trusts women to provide that support."