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Improving Efficiency for Perinatal Peer Support Workers in the Newborns and Neighbors Program

Siani Anderson headshot

March 17, 2023

Siani Anderson is an MPH student majoring in Community Health and Prevention with an interest in Maternal and Child Health (MCH). For Siani MCH is about family. Siani grew up hearing stories from new mothers in her family about their treatment in hospitals. Siani recognizes the bias that may exist among physicians and healthcare workers and wants to make a difference in the lives of all Black women.

Siani’s future goals are to attend medical school and help those in her families and Black women overall to decrease infant mortality rates.

Siani received a mini grant from the Drexel MCH Program to support her MCH workforce development project with the Newborns and Neighbors program. The project included working with community partners and lived experience experts who are working together to create community-driven solutions to eliminate the unacceptable racial inequities in infant mortality rates in Philadelphia and increase positive health outcomes for families.

"This was a great opportunity to collaborate outside of the classroom setting and get firsthand experience within the MCH field...This experience further ingrained in my mind that people come first, and their journeys matter." - Siani Anderson

The Newborns and Neighbors program is a community-driven participatory research pilot embedded in a partnership between the Philadelphia Maternal and Infant Health Community Action Network (CAN) and the Dornsife School of Public Health. The program, which originated from the CAN’s Holistic Mental Health Workgroup, trains perinatal peer support workers to provide practical and emotional support to Black and Latinx mothers and birthing people during their first six weeks postpartum. The pilot itself, as well as all program and research activities (e.g., training and research protocols, etc.) were developed by mothers and birthing people with lived experience, who are core members of the pilot team.

The interview below was conducted with Siani to learn more about her experience with this project.

What did you do on the project? What improvements were you able to make to the peer support process?

I was responsible for implementing improvements to operational methods and techniques for peer support workers in how they receive information from mothers/birthing people and send it back to the program.

Peer support workers produce sessions logs which include notes reflecting the duration of the meeting, the needs of the birthing person, and other information. The goal was to make this process more efficient.

I had the idea to make a voice option available for peer support workers to immediately record session notes, which can be more personable. I moved the sessions log online with Jotform, which is HIPAA compliant. I added an immediate needs section to the session logs to draw attention to those things that require urgent attention.

I also created an interview guide and accompanying survey for the peer support workers. The interview guide addressed the functionality and systematic relaying of information received from mothers and birthing people, options on relaying immediate needs, and resource lists. The survey will be conducted to capture the peer support workers’ satisfaction with the current method and suggested methods of improvement. I also created an interview guide for the Newborns and Neighbors team to aid in how to better communicate immediate needs and how to balance the workload between team members.

What did you learn from the experience?

I learned the importance of being relatable and personable and taking a step back to understand and empathize with people. I was able to interact with people from the Newborns and Neighbors program and listen to their shared experiences. This improved my own skills to listen to people and understand their perspectives.

This was a great opportunity to collaborate outside of the classroom setting and get firsthand experience within the MCH field.

How did the experience augment your training from Dornsife?

Again, the collaboration with people and hearing their different points of view and their experience was key. I believe this experience equipped me with successful communication methods with other community-based organizations which we highlight in my major of community health and prevention.

It also further ingrained in my mind that people come first, and their journeys matter. I feel like many times in academic settings, that philosophy can be overlooked.

Lastly, I knew I wanted to work on issues related to Black people and the health disparities they experience; and this being my first maternal health experience was helpful in guiding me towards areas I want to explore where inequities exist among my community.

Learn more about Dornsife's MCH program and upcoming MCH events.

Dornsife's Maternal and Child Health Program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit