Introducing Natalie Harlan: Director of the Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families
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United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Introducing Natalie Harlan: Director of the Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families

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February 10, 2017

The Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF) recently announced its top priorities to address the leading cause of infant deaths in Milwaukee: premature births. The United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County also named a new director, Natalie Harlan, to coordinate Milwaukee LIHF, a community-wide collaborative dedicated to reducing racial disparities in birth outcomes.

We sat down with Natalie and asked her a few questions about herself and her new position with Milwaukee LIHF.  

Why did you join the Lifecourse Collaborative?

I feel as if all of my previous experience has led me to this position. I believe in the goal of decreasing infant mortality and premature births, while also supporting the families. The fact that Milwaukee's African American infant death rate is more than 3 times that of Milwaukee's White infant death rate shows that, somewhere, there is a missing factor. I consider it an honor to be able to work towards the goal of closing that gap. Most of the nonprofit boards I have served on have one thing in common: they serve women and children. This position allows me to continue to serve that community.

Can you tell us how the Collaborative plans to address the issue of prematurity?

Our focus is on the number one cause of infant death: complications from prematurity. In order to address the root causes of the issue our goal is to advance local and state policies and practices in three priority areas:

  • Increasing awareness around the importance of pregnancy intendedness and birth spacing, because close-internal pregnancies are a key driver of pre-term births
  • Supporting mental and physical preparedness for pregnancy, because unmanaged chronic conditions are a key driver of pre-term births
  • Improving social and economic conditions for communities with the highest risk, because the chronic stress of economic insecurity, housing instability and other social factors create physiologic changes that increase the risk of pre-term births

What are you passionate about, and how do you plan to apply your passions to this work?

I am passionate about a few things. First, as I mentioned, the betterment of women and children is a true passion. Most of my board experience centers around both groups. I am also passionate about collaboration and relationships. There is always an opportunity to learn something from everyone. While I may not agree with someone's opinion, I can learn their perspective. Finally, teamwork is very important to me. There are very few meaningful things that can be accomplished as a team of one.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to watch my son, and his team, play baseball. I treasure the time we spend as a family, since my daughter is a currently sophomore in college. Finally, one my most favorite hobbies is traveling with my husband and children as family, sharing wonderful experiences together.  

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