Press Release

Once Upon a Preemie, Inc. to Host 2nd Annual Conference Conference will Highlight Stories, Policies and Practices to Eradicate Health Disparities for Black Moms and NICU Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 16, 2023
Contact: [email protected]

Philadelphia, PA—Once Upon A Preemie, Inc., (OUAP) a non-profit organization committed to pioneering solutions for neonatal equity for Black moms returns with its 2nd Annual Conference entitled, Black Maternal Health and Neonatal Equity Conference: Parents, Practitioners, Policies, and Solutions, on November 16th-17th, 2023 at the University Science Center Quorum. The two-day event features a fundraising reception, and a full-day conference welcoming experts, advocates, and moms.

In recent years, stories of high profile and famous Black women—including Serena Williams, Beyonce, and Tatyana Ali—who have survived traumatic experiences in birthing wards and NICUs have shed light on disproportionate and deadly black maternal health outcomes. National legislation introduced by Congress and the White House, including the MOMNIBUS Act and Maternal Care Act, are making significant strides towards making Black maternal health a priority within the healthcare system.

Locally, however, the black maternal health outcomes still trend negative. The preterm birth rate—when a woman delivers a baby before 37 weeks—for Black women is 56 percent higher than that of all other racial groups in Pennsylvania. More than 10 percent of Black infants are born preterm in Philadelphia.

The Black Maternal Health and Neonatal Equity Conference will both facilitate and contribute to important dialogue and current policy conversations about Black maternal health in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. The 2nd Annual conference will be hosted by Jenné Johns, MPH, Founder and CEO of OUAP. As a national senior health equity thought leader, Jenné brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in policy, advocacy and healthcare to this field, particularly through her work in health equity.

“As the mother of a former micro preemie, I know first hand the challenges Black preemie parents face, and as an advocate and health equity leader I know there are opportunities to improve outcomes,” says Jenné. “Our second annual conference is a step in the right direction to help center neonatal equity in all black maternal health policies, programs, funding and innovations. We must center the lived experiences of black birthing women, because the solutions to this crisis reside within us.”

The opening event for the 2nd annual conference is an inaugural “Party for A Cause” cocktail reception on Thursday, November 16th. Attendees will enjoy music, bid in live and silent auctions, and connect through networking opportunities. The conference commences on Friday, November 17th, with an event designed to empower healthcare professionals and parent advocates to eliminate health disparities and center the voices, lived experiences, and solutions of Black birthing and preemie families.

The day will kick-off with a welcoming session and panel discussion, followed by a keynote address from Charles Johnson, founder of 4Kira4Moms, a non-profit organization committed to reforming systems to better prevent birth-related deaths. The conference will also feature exhibitors, awards, and a fireside chat. Breakout sessions will focus on innovative best practices that support preemie families.

Local innovations will cover a range of policy, practice, and impact initiatives within the Philadelphia region aimed specifically to improve birth outcomes for Black mothers. PA State Representative Gina H. Curry (PA-164), co-founder of the newly established Pennsylvania Black Maternal Health Caucus for the PA General Assembly will discuss current legislative efforts to pass the PA MOMNIBUS Act, a legislative package modeled after the federal MOMNIBUS legislation to change the trajectory of maternal health outcomes in Pennsylvania.

Nationally renowned clinicians, researchers, practitioners, elected officials, and community advocates are featured speakers and presenters for the full-day symposium. Dr. Ndidiamaka Amutah-Onukagha PhD, MPH, CHES, professor of at Tufts University School of Medicine, as well as founder and director of the the Maternal Outcomes for Translational Health Equity Research (MOTHER) Lab, will present cutting edge research investigating maternal health disparities, reproductive health and social justice, and HIV/AIDS as experienced by Black women.

The conference will also highlight the innovative contributions and impact of doulas in supporting preemie families. Finally, experts will present the latest advancements in research and support for breastfeeding moms.

A full list of speakers and their bios are available online and upon request.

This conference is in joint partnership with Perinatal Advisory Council: Leadership, Advocacy, And Consultation (PAC/LAC). Healthcare professionals will have the opportunity to earn continuing education credits.

About OUAP

Once Upon a Preemie, Inc. is a non-profit organization. We pioneer health and racial equity education, advocacy, and family empowerment solutions for healthcare professionals by centering the lived experiences of Black preemie families. We advocate for equitable and family centered care throughout the birthing and neonatal journey. Our mission is to drive equitable health outcomes for 1 million Black preemie families.

Once Upon a Preemie, Inc., Offers Proven Solutions for Eliminating Disparities and Improving Equity for Black Preemie Families at CBCF 52nd Annual Legislative Conference 

Washington, DC - September 22, 2023 - Today, Once Upon a Preemie, Inc., will host a panel discussion and presentation, ‘Black Maternal Health and Neonatal Equity: Local Leadership and Policy Solutions’, at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) 52nd Annual Legislative Conference (#ALC52).

Jenné Johns, MPH, Founder and CEO of Once Upon a Preemie, Inc. (OUAP), will share a unique perspective on the Black maternal health crisis from her lived experience in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and her work reducing and eliminating health disparities in the NICU with hospitals throughout that nation.   As a national senior health equity thought leader, Jenne brings a wealth of policy, advocacy and healthcare expertise to this panel.

“While we know that too many Black mothers are dying too soon, too many Black babies are also born too soon.  We’re centering the needs of black preemie families within black maternal health legislation and holding healthcare systems accountable to deliver better care,” Jenné says. “My life’s journey drives my mission to ensure fewer Black Preemie families experience bias in the NICU and their babies have the high quality care they deserve.  I’m elated for the opportunity to share the work OUAP leads for Black families with esteemed members of the CBC, community partners and changemakers.”

Session Host and CBC member, Congressman Dwight Evans (D-PA-3), recognizes the connection between Black women’s maternal health and eliminating health inequities for Black families.  As original co-sponsor for the federal Momnibus Act and the Women’s Health Protection Act, Rep. Evans has made advancing policy that creates systems and structures that reduce health disparities, advance equity for Black families and address the unconscious bias that lead to disparate and adverse health outcomes.

“Maternal health and neonatal disparities that impact Black families is a national crisis," says Rep Evans.   “Once Upon a Preemie, Inc., has a proven model that can help address these critical issues and lead to much needed and long overdue reductions and elimination in maternal and neonatal inequities. I am extremely impressed with the work that Jenné Johns and her team at Once Upon A Preemie Inc. are doing to improve the lives of Black birthing women and premature infants, in Philadelphia and across the country.”

‘Black Maternal Health and Neonatal Equity’ will explore solutions that support and expand current maternal and child health legislation.   Each panelist will share ways that Momnibus and new related policy initiatives will drive equitable birth and neonatal outcomes. Speakers will elevate the lived birthing experiences and local solutions that are improving birth and neonatal outcomes.  This timely discussion will also shed light on policy and legislation that integrates the needs of families with premature infants.

Jenné is also joined by PA State Rep. Gina H. Curry (PA-164) and Jatesha "Jaye" Wilson, LPN, Founding President and CEO of Melinated Moms.

Rep. Curry represents the 164th District in Delaware county and is co-chair of the Women’s Health Caucus for the Pennsylvania General Assembly.  Rep Curry is a strong advocate for Black moms and maternal health, organizing advocacy days, hosting policy briefings and crafting and co-sponsoring legislation that supports equity for Black birthing women.

“I am beyond honored to be invited back to DC during The Congressional Black Caucus Annual Conference by Once Upon A Preemie,” says Rep. Curry.  “I’m excited to participate in the conversation around legislation and policy decisions impacting Black Maternal Health on the national level and share what we are experiencing in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  It’s time to enact sensible legislation that saves lives and creates an activated legacy for generations to come.”

Through compassionate advocacy, nurturing mentorship, and resilient mothering, Jatesha “Jaye” Wilson is reshaping the world of maternal health for women of color at Melinated Moms, a community-centered, women empowerment social enterprise supporting moms and women to become better versions of themselves through advocacy, education, awareness and entrepreneurship.

“As a Black woman, mother and advocate, I know my words and actions are changing the narrative of maternal health equity.   I am so honored to work alongside Once Upon a Preemie to support, encourage and shift the paradigm of equity for Black Preemie families," Jaye says.

‘Black Maternal Health and Neonatal Equity: Local Leadership and Policy Solutions’, is happening today, Friday, September 22, 2023, 11am at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Room 202 B.

About OUAP

Once Upon a Preemie, Inc., is a non-profit organization. We lead pioneering health and racial equity education, advocacy, and family empowerment solutions for healthcare professionals by centering the lived experiences of Black Preemie families. We advocate for equitable and family centered care throughout the birthing and neonatal journey. Our mission is to drive equitable health outcomes for 1 Million Black Preemie families.

This November, Once Upon a Preemie, Inc., will host healthcare professionals from across the country for a full day, in-person conference to center the lived experiences of Black Birthing women and NICU families to elevate solutions for this crisis.

For more press inquiries

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