Senior Manager, Project Management Office – Prolacta Bioscience
Athari Council – Founding Member, July 2020
Prolacta’s Charitable Foundation: Athari Council
PW: Explain how the Athari Council is helping support the advancement of Black maternal health and equity in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs):
Tanya: The word Athari denotes “impact” in Swahili, emphasizing the Council’s focus on supporting programs and initiatives that will intentionally result in a positive impact on Black families, in the NICU and beyond.
The Athari Council leverages the expertise of Prolacta’s Advocacy and Government Affairs department to extend knowledge about legislative initiatives aligned with our purpose.
PW: How does the Athari Council uplift Black families in the NICU?
Tanya: Recognizing that education and public outreach are cornerstones of positive impact, the Council is actively vetting external programs with tangible action plans directly targeting Black families in the NICU and beyond.
We recognize synergy in goals with community-based groups of diverse, multidisciplinary perinatal and mental health professionals whose missions are:
To promote high-quality, family-centered, evidence-based, respectful maternity and newborn care, and improved health outcomes for Black women and girls through health education, empowerment and advocacy.
Focused on improving birth outcomes for all women and birthing persons, with a special emphasis on communities of color who disproportionately experience poor birth outcomes (such as high rates of cesarean section, maternal mortality, prematurity, and infant mortality), due to structural racism and provider implicit biases.
Our direct partnership with the Alliance for Black NICU Families provides a support network that we use to proactively cultivate connections for these organizations to enable growth and partnership for further success.
PW: Is there anything else we should know?
Tanya: Growing up, I don’t recall hearing conversations about Black maternal health. Babies were born in hospitals, came home, and began receiving visitors after a month or so. I do recall the jokes about funny things mothers ( like mine) did to make those babies come out who were “in there past their due dates”. During the founding of the Athari Council, I had conversations with my mother and aunt. Both shared with me that there was a lot of prematurity in their generation and that they just didn’t talk about those topics when I was in the room. I was astonished to learn about how many of my relatives were premature and about those who did not come home from the hospital. I didn’t hear about racism in the hospital, until my brother and his wife experienced it.
Black women have relied on self-education and self-advocacy to endure the barriers related to racism, mistreatment, and their experiences with preterm birth. This needs to change. The more I’ve learned, the more motivated I’ve become to support programs that serve to bring racial equity to the NICU and throughout healthcare.