The Right! From the Start Initiative

The Right! From the Start (R!FTS) Initiative is recognized in the community for its strong focus on maternal and child health.  Through its continued support by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the initiative has become a value-added brand steeped in community engagement.  Building upon the knowledge gained and the relationships established while implementing the NICU Breastfeeding Initiative through care coordination with a multidisciplinary team of social workers, community health workers (CHWs) and lactation specialists, R!FTS will be leveraging strategic partnerships with community health centers to expand the care coordination system and address health conditions affecting pregnant women that contribute to preterm birth.  This includes inadequate prenatal care, chronic disease conditions, environmental exposures, toxic stress, and psychosocial and behavioral health issues. With strategic partnerships including the Community Foundation of Northwest MS (CFNM), University of Mississippi Center for Population Studies (CPS), the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Aaron E. Henry Health Services Center and Delta Health Center, the R!FTS will develop a perinatal intervention for families in the Mississippi Delta to decrease the impact of toxic stress on parents and infants and support healthy development.  This intervention will be a combination of home visits and interactions with moms visiting the clinics for prenatal, obstetric, and pediatric visits.

Study Team

  • Ms. Sannie Snell
  • Dr. Bizu Gelaye
  • Dr. Elizabeth Levey
  • Dr. John Green
  • Dr. Vanessa Parks


Sandy SnellSannie (“Sandy”) Snell, MSW, MPH, President of Women and Children’s Health Initiatives, works as an independent consultant on maternal and child health issues. She is currently Project Director of R!FTS.





Bizu Gelaye, PhD, MPHBizu Gelaye, PhD, MPH,  is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. He also serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and The Chester M. Pierce, MD Division of Global Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital.




Dr. Elizabeth Levey

Elizabeth Levey, MD, Child, Adolescent, & Adult Psychiatrist at the Chester M. Pierce, MD Division of Global Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Levey currently has a K23 career development award through the NIMH to study perinatal interventions to decrease intergenerational transmission of trauma in resource-limited settings.





John GreenJohn J. Green, PhD,  is the Director of the Center for Population Studies and Professor of Sociology at The University of Mississippi. Previously, he served as Associate Professor of Sociology and Community Development, founding Director of the Institute for Community-Based Research, and Director of the Center for Community and Economic Development at Delta State University.





Vanessa Parks Profile

Vanessa Parks, PhD, joined the Center for Population Studies in 2019 after completing her doctoral studies in sociology at Louisiana State University. Her work focuses on the relationships between social capital, health, and well-being among vulnerable populations in the context of both acute and slow-onset crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Hurricane Harvey, the Flint Water Crisis, and coastal land loss. Vanessa has been awarded the Roland Pellegrin Award from Louisiana State University and the Larry W. DeBord Award from the University of Mississippi, and she was named a Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Scholar for her work on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.