Montco Mamas: An Interview with Jamiylah and Tanizah

Maternity Care Coalition is proud to be a part of Montgomery County’s initiative, Montco Mamas. The program was founded after Montgomery County Early Childhood Consortium (MECC) looked at a Perinatal Period of Risk (PPOR) study to identify disparities in infant mortality, identified significant risk factors, and developed a community action plan to improve birth outcomes within the Black community.

We spoke with Jamiylah Miller, who is involved with Montco Mamas and is an Early Head Start Advocate at MCC, and Tanizha Vearnon, who is an MCC supporter and assists the Montco Mamas team. They both shared more information about Montco Mamas and their experience working with this innovative program. Named Philadelphia magazine’s Best of Philly® 2021 – Rising Wellness Organization in the ‘Burbs, Montco Mamas is nothing short of amazing.


Q. Why was Montco Mamas founded?
A. Montco Mamas was founded in response to the high infant mortality rate among Black babies. MECC completed a PPOR study to identify the racial disparities that existed for birth outcomes for Black women and birthing people. The PPOR report created 12 recommendations. From there, we named Montco Mamas and designated it as the strategic plan of action.

Q. What role do you play in Montco Mamas?
A. I am part of the backbone team. We had a six-month Planning Phase for Montco Mamas. Along with Strategy Arts, a planning and facilitation firm, the backbone team was responsible for preparing and conducting monthly meetings with the large committee team. I helped select the committee members that qualified to be in one of the nine Montco Mamas Sectors.

Q. Aside from infant mortality, what does Montco Mamas address for perinatal members of the Black community?

A. Montco Mamas addresses the need for support throughout the pregnancy including prenatal visits, information about what to expect for first-time parents, and support once the baby arrives. From the PPOR recommendations, some of the concerns we would like to address are connecting more perinatal members of the Black community to doula services, creating peer groups for information and support, and improving the healthcare provider-patient relationship.

Some women are able to have their baby with a support team including the father or other family members, but there are women who go through their pregnancy journey alone. Montco Mamas wants to make sure that those women who may not have a strong support system, are provided that structure through our program. Part of building this strong support system is connecting these women to resources needed throughout Montgomery County to make sure that they have a safe and healthy pregnancy.

Q. What should a member of the Black community look for when choosing a provider to monitor their pregnancy or when choosing a pediatrician for their baby?
A. When choosing this, members of the Black community should be looking for a health care provider that they can trust. We want them to feel comfortable confiding in their healthcare provider when it comes to any concerns or questions they have about their pregnancy and baby. They should also seek health care providers that have a well-rounded understanding of varied cultural experiences of members of the Black community, especially since those experiences impact healthy birth outcomes.

Q. How does Montco Mamas work with medical providers to address the racial disparities in infant mortality among the Black community?
A. Montco Mamas works with medical providers by including them in discussions about the high infant mortality rate among Black women and birthing people. Medical care providers are members of our Planning Committee, and their role includes engaging in conversations about the 12 recommendations offered in the PPOR report and choosing three high priority recommendations to create implementation plans.

Q. Montco  Mamas is a new initiative. How do you envision the program growing and supporting the Montgomery County community?
A. I envision the program being a part of the health care provider system in Montgomery County. I see it as a safe and reliable organization for Black women and birthing people in that area. I want it to be a place that stands firm in the county for women who are seeking a support system, education, and connection to much-needed resources. When anyone is seeking a dependable health care provider, doula services, or anything to support having a healthy birth outcome, Montco Mamas will provide that assistance.

Q. What is one thing you are especially proud of that Montco  Mamas is doing?
A. The one thing I am especially proud of is our inclusion of the Lived Experience Experts (LEEs) in everything that we do. LEEs are the Black women who have gone through challenges and had concerns during their pregnancy that were not addressed. I believe it is important to include the Lived Experience Experts in every decision that we make because they are the motivation and reason that we are doing this work in the first place.

I am very proud of the two successful Chat and Chew meetings that we had for the LEEs. The Chat and Chews provided the Lived Experience Experts two opportunities to discuss some of the important topics from larger meetings in a smaller, more intimate setting via Zoom. Because of the Chat and Chew, we saw more involvement from our LEEs during committee meetings to the point that some of our LEEs began taking the initiative to start the dialogue in later meetings. I am proud of this moment because it let us know that deciding to have these smaller conversations for the women was the right thing to do. The outcome was that our Lived Experience Experts felt empowered to share their stories and insights in a larger space knowing that there were familiar faces among the committee members to provide peer support.

Q. Is there anything else you think people should know about Montco Mamas?
A. It’s important to know that Montco Mamas is here to be a part of the solution to address and support the concerns and the challenges that Black women and birthing people encounter in Montgomery County. My hope is that Montco Mamas becomes a model program that sparks an action plan in other areas of Pennsylvania to support all Black women and birthing people experiencing racial disparities in healthcare.


Q. Tell us a little about yourself?
A. I’m a single mother living in Montco, working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

Q. How did you become involved with Montco Mamas?
A. I was approached by the MCC team and was excited to join in spreading the word and supporting the program.

Q. What is one thing you are especially proud of that Montco Mamas is doing?
A. I’m proud they are getting the information on Black maternal health out there. Also, letting the Black birthing community know that they are not alone and there are people who are helping and trying to fix this problem.

Q. What’s one thing you would like to share about your experience with Montco Mamas?
A. I am appreciative that I get to meet all the different people who are strong, confident, and have the courage to speak out on this.

Q. Who would you recommend Montco Mamas to?
A. All Black birthing people in Montgomery County.