Peer advocate once needed help, now supports other moms

As an Ohio Equity Institute (OEI) Peer Advocate, Crystal Brown identifies pregnant moms within her community, connects them to resources and services, and provides support as their “champion.” But it wasn’t long ago when she was the mom looking for help.

Two years ago, Crystal needed diapers for her baby. She found help from Cradle Cincinnati and met Amy Clasgens, outreach coordinator for Cradle Cincinnati Connections. As they got to know each other, Amy encouraged Crystal to volunteer with Cradle.

Amy quickly recognized that Crystal is a great listener and speaker, and that people are drawn to her. Crystal’s volunteer work led to a paid position with Cradle Cincinnati, doing community outreach, safe sleep education, and reproductive life planning classes.

When OEI needed peer advocates to do similar work with families in Crystal’s neighborhood, Amy knew that Crystal would be the perfect fit.

With four children of her own, Crystal can relate to moms who take her classes. She learned about safe sleep for her now two year old, but wasn’t aware of it when her older children were babies. “I just give them a bit of my story and share how learning this information kind of shifted me,” she said. “People are open to the information and I know they are learning something.”

Crystal is not stopping. This fall, she starts a ten-week course to become a certified community health worker. The training will allow her to do more “hands-on” work for Cradle Cincinnati Connections. “I’ll work with moms who are pregnant, scheduling and helping them get to appointments, connecting them to a social worker, whatever they need,” Crystal said.

Helping moms has become part of Crystal’s life. “I’m always talking to people,” she said. “If I see a pregnant mom when I’m riding the bus, I say, ‘do you know you can call 211 for help?’ It’s always on my brain.”

Ohio Equity Institute (OEI) is a statewide program — run locally by Hamilton County Public Health (HCPH) — to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality. HCPH works with Cradle Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Health Department to implement and support infant mortality initiatives in the 45240 and 45225 zip code areas.

Crystal Brown, Jenetta Thomas, R.N. and Alexia Ball are OEI Peer Advocates.