Why I Joined Oath Care
Health Happens in Community.
I definitely felt this before I understood it.
I felt it when I decided not to continue my pre-med path to medical school. I was 21 and was firm on my goal of wanting to save lives. Yet, I felt clear that health care delivery would continually fall short without working on people’s social determinants of health – including things like safe living spaces, employment, health insurance coverage, as well belonging to a community. So I turned to studying public health. As a volunteer in rural Mexico helping women navigate post-birth complications and depression, I watched close knit families, church groups, and community centers support and rally around their members, as well as what happened for those when they didn’t. I had a light bulb moment during a class in grad school when reading Kawachi and Berkman and other’s research that proposed that developing strong social ties could improve psychological well being. Researchers were labeling these important ties as social capital, and showing that the resources people can gain from social networks, namely trust in others, reciprocity, civic participation, and social cohesion, could improve mental health outcomes, and prevent deterioration of other health outcomes! Yesss! It was making sense.
I felt it again when I worked as a community educator at a Boston-based NGO that supported Dominican and Haitian immigrants with health guidance, education, and treatment. The one-on-one discussions I scheduled with women quickly morphed into group events, as individual participants would invite their sisters, parents, and neighbors to accompany them to sit in to support and share. Groups of women would show up weekly and humored me while they listened politely to my powerpoint presentations on birth control and health during pregnancy. The meaningful discussions happened afterwards. Women shared stories of paying for exorbitant hospital bills, domestic struggles, sick children, looking for work, and endless discrimination and unmet needs as they navigated health care in the US. Sharing in a community amplified learnings and created fertile ground for support and care.
I personally felt it when I gave birth to my daughter 11 years ago. As a person who operated with a to-do list that was groomed more than a show pony, who relied on alone time to recharge, and had sleep needs that put the princess and the pea to shame, my life as I knew it toppled. I felt foggy and desperate. Asking for help was not on my radar. I was living in Tel Aviv, a city I had called home for 5 years, far away from my childhood home. Lucky for me, another light bulb moment happened on a phone call with my mom: So I have been hearing about this website called Facebook. Maybe you could create a group of other moms like you to lean on and share experiences with. With an item on my to-do list, I snapped out of my fog enough to spend the next week, with a friend, writing a description of our vision of an online support group for Tel Aviv moms. Friday night, I launched the group and went to sleep. The next night I logged back in and over 200 women had joined! I was overjoyed; others need this space too! Over the following week, the community grew rapidly, and moms were posting and using the space to vent, support and get answers. I was both comforted and troubled to read about so many women who were in similar or worse mental spaces than I was. The online discussions organically moved into weekly in person meetings. We invited specialists and musicians to come speak with us, to provide spaces to let go together. Over the next 6 months our mental health was cared for in this community. Ten years later it is still going strong with over 12,000 members!! I understood it.
After 15 years in Israel, this past summer I returned to the US, to its health system broken by sky-high costs and misaligned incentives. Maternal morbidity and mortality rates are soaring, exacerbated and brought into the public eye courtesy of the pandemic. Mom’s burn-out as caregivers and professionals has also been magnified, and women’s reproductive rights in many states are being denied to them. Each failure is a deafening call to me for all-hands-on-deck, a call to action to change outcomes for women and mothers in the US. We cannot continue with the status quo.
So imagine with me, what if health care was delivered via community with other moms through shared experiences, common pain points, support, affirmation and wisdom sharing? And that community included specialists who were on-call to drop in to make sure it was a safe, trusted space with scientifically backed information? What if complementing this community was your own team of specialists to turn to? Oath Care is creating this wrap around care, all just a text away.
So why have I joined Oath? The answer comes back to betting on the fact that health happens and changes in community. I made a foggy-headed bet over a decade ago, and I am making it with clear conviction this time around. My work and experiences have led me to deeply understand this. Furthermore, the company has put research and evidence-based care at the core of its mission, part of its DNA. Oath is determined not only to impact these maternal health outcomes too often undervalued and overlooked by the health system, but I have been given the honor and privilege to create the Oath research lab to show that we can. We are committed to building a company that reinvents a mom-centric type of care that truly achieves the outcomes we want.
Stay tuned, data and insights to come!