Mission & History
The Perinatal Health Equity Initiative is a grassroots community organization. We are dedicated to actively working towards eliminating health care disparities in black infant and maternal health through advocacy, education, community engagement, research, collaboration, and direct clinical support.
We envision a societal shift embracing health equity and cultural humility; Where Black women have the tools, resources, and support needed to reach their goals and have healthy outcomes for both themselves and their infants; and where health inequities for Black mamas and infants no longer exist.
In 2016, Dr. Nastassia Harris left the hospital and opened a lactation practice after 11 years of clinical practice. Through this private practice, she discovered there were many Black women who were seeking support, but could not pay for services for a variety of different reasons. This resulted in an inability to address their concerns and alleviate their fears. Issues were left unresolved and personal goals were unmet. The discovered unmet need led to the development of Sistahs Who Breastfed (SWB). SWB is a mom-to-mom support group specifically designed to support the unique needs of Black women and is free to the community. Nastassia listened to women share their personal experiences and struggles in a safe space. Over time women began to open up and share stories about hospital readmissions, experiences with racism, disrespectful care, not being listened to, and mistreatment. They shared stories of personal infant loss or a close relative with a loss. Nastassia quickly realized the issues Black women face are much deeper than just breastfeeding. More needed to be done.
The Perinatal Health Equity Initiative was birthed in 2018 switching from a for-profit to nonprofit model to address the numerous disparities and health inequities among Black women and infants. Since then, the organization has grown its team and expanded its services. At PHEI we vow to be a trusted base of support to hold women up as they navigate motherhood until they feel empowered enough to hold themselves up.
Dr. Nastassia K. Harris is a registered nurse, International board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), mother of 4, and a resident of West Orange, New Jersey. She has over 19 years of experience working with birthing & lactating families. Nastassia is passionate about improving access to qualified lactation professionals and improving breastfeeding rates in the Black community. Nastassia founded The Perinatal Health Equity Initiative in 2018, a non-profit advocacy and support organization dedicated to eliminating racial disparities in Black infant and maternal health. In addition to her public health commitments, Dr. Harris serves as an assistant professor of Nursing at Montclair State University. She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the College of New Rochelle, a Master of Science in Nursing from Mercy College, and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice in educational leadership from American Sentinel University. She is active in several committees and organizations including the Association of Women’s Health Obstetrics and Neonatal Nursing and the Black Mamas Matter Alliance Nastassia’s research and clinical interests include implicit bias/racism in healthcare, breastfeeding in the black community, obstetrical violence, high risk OB, and reproductive justice.