Our 2021 Impact Report: Being the Change in Birth Research

2021 Impact Report

Dear PTBi Community,

As we enter our 2022 financial year, we look back on the past year with bewilderment and awe. We also look towards the new year with hope and excitement.

The last time our team and community advisors gathered in person was February 2020. Little did we know that our world was about to be turned upside down. But, as the pandemic took its toll and social upheaval ensued, in the midst of all the loss and strife, positive change emerged at PTBi.

We are proud to share our 2021 Impact Report, which recaps many of our recent successes, none of which would be possible without the unwavering commitment and close collaboration of our team members, community advisors and partners. We’d like to provide special mention of some of the most notable highlights:

  • Over the last year, PTBi has delved deeper into our commitment to addressing structural and interpersonal racism through our intensive internal anti-racism training programs focusing on anti-Blackness. In addition, we have brought better representation to the leadership by appointing Alexis Cobbins (previously a Community Advisory Board member) as Executive Director and Solaire Spellen as Associate Director. Alongside Principal Investigator Dr. Larry Rand, the three of us continue to head the organization as our new Executive Leadership Team.
  • We welcomed new researchers and staff membersfellowsCommunity Advisory Board members and Benioff Community Innovators.
  • We supported Expecting Justice’s groundbreaking Abundant Birth Project. Led by Dr. Zea Malawa, it is the first unconditional basic income program for Black and Pacific Islander pregnant people in the U.S.
  • We launched the HOPE COVID-19 study to determine the impact of the pandemic on pregnancy and birth.
  • We presented the initial results of the SOLARS study, which looks at the impact on stress, coping, and resilience in Black and Latinx birthing people.
  • We dramatically increased the reach of our monthly Collaboratory seminars from local to national.
  • Through PTBi’s public awareness campaign, Voices for Birth Justice, we created a vibrant online network of birth workers and birth justice advocates that center BIPOC experiences.
  • We made a significant discovery through the PROMPT study that including a metabolic vulnerability profile in routine newborn screenings, which could help predict and detect life-threatening complications in preterm babies.
  • We compared new approaches to prenatal care through the Fresno-based EMBRACE study.
  • We demonstrated the link and impact of structural racism on BIPOC pregnancy and birth to policymakers.
  • Through it all, we grew in our fields, strengthened our reputation for advancing racial equity, and gained notoriety as a go-to source for community-centered research.

We want to specifically express our deep gratitude to: 

Our Community Advisory Board for their wisdom, passion and willingness to call us in and keep us accountable. Thank you for challenging us to always do better.

The talented researchers who developed three approaches that underpin what we do and continue to guide our path forward: Dr. Zea Malawa for conceiving the Racism as a Root Cause framework to guide intervention development; Dr. Monica McLemore, Dr. Linda Franck and Shanell Williams for creating the Research Prioritization by Affected Communities (RPAC) protocol, and Dr. Christine Dehlendorf for convening a national panel of experts to reimagine “preconception” health.

Our teacher and mentor, Dante King, who has led our anti-racism journey over the last two years. Dante has retaught us our country’s history, has changed the way we see the world and each other, and most of all, that discomfort means growth. His trainings have guided the evolution of our organization and our focus on addressing anti-Blackness through our research and the way we work.

Dr. Brittany Chambers, the entire SOLARS team and the Community Accountability Council who exemplify the future of community-led research.

Dr. Venise Curry and Shantay Davies-Balch, who are respected leaders committed to improving the lives of the Southwest Fresno Black Community as champions for environmental justice, improved birth outcomes, and equity in the COVID-19 response.

PTBi’s Strategic Advisory Board members who each do such important work to improve birth and health outcomes across the country, and who make the time to evaluate our work and share their sage advice with us as we iterate our research projects and organizational priorities.

Our fellow PTBi team members: We miss you! We’ve spent over a year physically apart while Zoom allowed us to remain in close community. We’ve shared many moments of vulnerability and candor. And despite lockdowns and loss, important work got done through extraordinary times.

And, lastly, we’d like to extend our utmost gratitude to Lynne and Marc Benioff for recognizing the problem of prematurity and sharing our vision to live in a world where every birthing person can have a healthy pregnancy and every child can have a healthy start in life.

We hope that you’ll enjoy reading more about our progress in PTBi’s 2021 Impact Report. We wish all of you the very best in the coming year and look forward to continuing our collective work to bring long-lasting positive change for BIPOC birthing people.

In partnership and solidarity,

Solaire, Alexis and Larry
PTBi Executive Leadership Team


2021 Impact Report